Air pollution “could kill 160,000 in a decade”

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The British Heart Foundation is calling for “bold action” to improve air quality.

13th January 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

More than 160,000 people in the UK could die from conditions caused by air pollution over the next decade, according to a charity.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter could lead to more than 40 deaths each day for the next ten years.

It is now urging the UK Government to take “bold action” to cut pollution and improve air quality.

BHF-funded 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. Fine particulate matter has also been found to build up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.

Jacob West, BHF 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. 

The BHF is urging the government to adopt stricter WHO guidelines in its reintroduced Environment Bill, with a requirement that these limits are met by 2030. 

Dr Mark Miller, a BHF-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."