The government’s plan to tackle air pollution has been hailed as a “big step forward” by the British Heart Foundation, although they warned it’s unlikely many of the people living in today’s polluted streets will see many of the benefits.

The government’s new policy, UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations (, includes a commitment to ban all new diesel and petrol cars in the UK from 2020, with the aim of tackling air pollution and reducing harmful chemicals expelled by the roadside.

Air pollution contributes to around 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year and is linked to heart attack and stroke, due to the pollution caused by ultra-fine nanoparticles found in diesel and petrol fumes. These stop blood vessels relaxing and contracting, which increases the risk of clots and heart attacks.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “The government’s aim for the UK to become a global leader in air quality is very positive news but we urgently need a new Clean Air Act with stricter pollution limits to help make this vision a reality.

“Banning new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 is a big step forward but it won’t benefit the millions of people today being put at increased risk of a deadly heart attack or stroke by the UK’s air pollution.

“We need to focus on the most polluted areas as these are having the most significant impact on people's heart health.

“We believe that charging the most polluting vehicles to enter clean air zones and a targeted diesel scrappage scheme is still the most rapid and effective way to improve the nation’s air quality and help save lives.“