A quarter of people in the UK are living in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution, a new study has warned today.
Analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found 15 million people in the UK are exposed to toxic air that exceeds safety guidelines set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The charity is calling on the Government to use the Environment Bill, which is returning to parliament next week, to adopt stricter air pollution limits.
Jacob West, director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, said: '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.
'You only have to look at past Clean Air Acts or more recently the smoking ban for examples of bold legislation that has improved the air we all breathe. '
The BHF is also calling for Charging Clean Air Zones to be implemented in all areas that breach WHO guidelines, a public awareness campaign and an acceleration of plans to invest in cycling and walking infrastructure.
In response, Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: 'For air quality plans to be successful, they need to be underpinned by local flexibility and sufficient funding, while issues around resourcing and capacity also need to be addressed.
'Local powers are also needed to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to moving traffic offences and robust national action to help the country transition to lower emission travel, including cycling and walking and an effective national bus strategy.'