Air pollution could attribute to over 160,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths over the next decade in the UK, which is the equivalent to over 40 deaths each day.
The British Heart Foundation is calling on the Government charity to address this 'major public health emergency' and to adopt World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter (PM) into UK law by 2030.
The call comes as it launches a new campaign called 'You're full of it' to highlight that dangerous levels of particulate matter air pollution in towns and cities across the UK are inhaled every day.
Research 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
Jacob West, Executive Director of Healthcare Innovation, 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 charity is 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."