Heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade in the UK unless the new Government takes bold action.
This is equivalent to over 40 heart and circulatory disease deaths related to air pollution each day.
The British Heart Foundation says air pollution presents a ‘major public health emergency’ which must be urgently addressed by the new Government. It is calling for World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter (PM) to be adopted into UK law and met by 2030.
The call comes as they launch a hard-hitting campaign, ‘You’re full of it’, to highlight that we’re all unwittingly inhaling dangerous levels of particulate matter air pollution in towns and cities across the UK every day.
It’s estimated that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.
Research funded by the British Heart Foundation has shown that high levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, including by making existing heart conditions worse and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. It has also found that fine particulate matter builds up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.
A public health emergency
The British Heart Foundation Executive Director of Healthcare Innovation Jacob West said:
“Every day, millions of us across the country are inhaling toxic particles which enter our blood and get stuck in our organs, raising our risk of heart attacks and stroke.
“Make no mistake – our toxic air is a public health emergency, and we haven’t done enough to tackle this threat to our society.
“We need to ensure that stricter, health-based air quality guidelines are adopted into law to protect the health of the nation as a matter of urgency. Decision-makers across the country owe it to future generations to help stop this alarming figure from becoming a reality.”
Currently, the UK subscribes to EU limits for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is the pollutant with the most established links to health harms.
However, the limits set by the WHO are more stringent than the EU’s. The BHF are urging the new Government to adopt WHO guidelines into the reintroduced Environment Bill, with a requirement that these limits are met by 2030.
The British Heart Foundation are asking people to write to their MPs, urging them to support the inclusion of WHO air pollution guideline limits in the bill.
Dr Mark Miller, a British Heart Foundation-funded researcher specialising in air pollution, said:
“Our research has found that air pollution damages our blood vessels, increasing our risk of blood clots, and in turn heart attacks and stroke.
“While there is no safe level of air pollution exposure, adopting stricter guidelines will do a great deal to protect our health, allowing people to live healthier lives for longer.”