Around 15 million people in the UK live in areas where average levels of toxic particles in the air exceed guidelines set out by the World Health Organization, analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found.
This means almost a quarter of the population is likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of these particles, known as fine particulate matter. Currently, the UK subscribes to EU limits on levels of fine particulate matter. However, these are not as strict as those set out by the WHO, and progress towards reducing levels of major air pollutants has been mixed since the previous Government’s Clean Air Strategy was published in January 2019.
‘This government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take brave political action in cleaning up our toxic air. Tackling a public health emergency on this scale requires serious and sustained commitment. This could mean changes that might not be easy or convenient for organisations or individuals, but they will prove crucial to protecting people’s health,’ said Jacob West, the BHF’s Director of Healthcare Innovation.
‘The uncomfortable truth is that UK heart and circulatory deaths attributed to air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade unless we take radical steps now.'
Research has shown that exposure to diesel fumes can increase the risk of blood clots that lead to heart attacks, as well as a correlation between poor air quality and increased hospitalisation and deaths due to heart failure.
‘We can’t see them, but every day, we all breathe in tiny toxic particles which damage our heart and circulatory health. They are an invisible killer,’ added Mr West.
‘Everyone can play their part in demanding a healthier environment for all. We are urging people to write to their MP to demand a change to the law. The more pressure we put on decision makers, the better our chances of cleaning up our air.’