Air pollution in UK

Air pollution is linked to thousands of UK deaths each year (Picture: Getty/PA)

The number of heart attack and stroke deaths ‘will soar by almost 50% over the next decade’ unless the government takes urgent steps to tackle pollution.

Medical experts say the UK should brace itself for around 160,000 deaths in the next decade – equivalent to 43 per day.

There are now calls for the government to enforce much stricter rules on air quality and people have been urged to contact their MPs to demand change.

Jacob West from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) called the issue a ‘public health emergency.’

He 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.’

Blurred silhouettes of cars surrounded by steam from the exhaust pipes. Traffic jam ; Shutterstock ID 553591285; Purchase Order: -

Pollution caused in part by traffic is killing thousands of people (Picture: Shutterstock)

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is the pollutant in the air and comes from dust, exhaust fumes and smoke from power plants, fires or industrial works.

It can become toxic when inhaled and can cause or worsen killer health conditions.

The charity said that an estimated 11,000 people are already dying in the UK each year from heart and circulatory deaths caused by pollution.

They predict that will rocket to 16,000 unless the government sets new limits to improve air quality.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gill Allen/REX (5550938a) London's city skyline surrounded by smog as viewed from Richmond Park Air pollution in London, Britain - 21 Jan 2016 London continues to breach EU limits on acceptable NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) levels. In April 2015, the UK Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to tackle high levels of air pollution.Photo by Gill Allen

London’s city skyline covered with killer smog (Picture: Rex Features)

The UK comfortably meets current EU limits for PM2.5, which are set at 25 micrograms per metre cubed.

BHF wants the government to urgently introduce tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits, which are set at 10 micrograms per metre cubed.

They also want these more stringent limits to be met by 2030.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said in a report last year that the lower limit could ‘feasibly’ be reached in most areas of the UK within the next decade.

The charity is now asking people to write to their MPs to support the inclusion of WHO air pollution guideline limits in a new Environment Bill that promises a ‘cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation.’

Mr West added: ‘Clean Air legislation in the 1950s and 60s, and more recently the smoking ban in public places, show that government action can improve the air we breathe.

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

Coal fueled power station, Ratcliffe-On-Soar, Nottingham, England, U.K.

Smoke from power stations adds to air pollution levels (Picture: Getty)

One-in-four Britons will die from heart and circulatory disease but those numbers are set to rise because of pollution.

Medics have already revealed that one-in-five new childhood asthma cases can be linked to traffic pollution.

Air pollution specialist Dr Mark Miller from the BHF said: ‘Air pollution is a serious public health issue which affects us all, and evidence of the negative impact toxic air has on our health is increasing all the time.

‘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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