William Eichler 13 January 2020

Air pollution 'major public health emergency’, charity warns

Heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade in the UK, according to a health charity.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned that air pollution presents a 'major public health emergency' which must be urgently addressed by the new Government.

Launching its new campaign, ‘You’re full of it’, the charity estimates that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.

‘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,’ said Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at BHF.

‘Make no mistake – our toxic air is a public health emergency, and we haven’t done enough to tackle this threat to our society.’

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 World Health Organisation are more stringent than the EU’s and so BHF argues the Government should adopt these into the reintroduced Environment Bill, with a requirement that these limits are met by 2030.

‘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,’ continued Mr West.

‘Decision makers across the country owe it to future generations to help stop this alarming figure from becoming a reality.’

Dr Mark Miller, a British Heart Foundation-funded researcher specialising in air pollution, commented: ‘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.’

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