Published: 00:01, 13 January 2020
Some 21,000 people will die across the South East in the next 10 years because of health problems caused by pollution unless the Government takes immediate action, the British Heart Foundation has warned.
New research by the charity has enabled it to predict the number of heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate air pollution on a region-by-region basis across the UK.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kent with its high population and busy roads, is predicted to have the highest number of deaths compared with neighbouring counties.
The British Heart Foundation estimates the county will suffer 4,900 deaths directly as a result of pollution, a scenario it called a "stark picture."
The charity is urging the Government to avoid the tragedy by taking bold action to impose stricter pollution controls.
Elsewhere in the South East, Hampshire can expect 4,300 deaths, and East Sussex 2,200 if no action is taken.
The Isle Of Wight would appear to be the safest place to move to - the charity is predicting "only" 500 pollution-related deaths there.
The foundation says pollution constitutes "a major public health emergency" which must be urgently addressed by the new Government.
It is calling for World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter (PM) to be adopted in to UK law, and met by 2030.
The call comes as the charity launches a hard-hitting campaign, 'You're full of it', to highlight that we're all unwittingly inhaling dangerous levels of particulate matter air pollution in towns and cities across the UK every day.
High levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, such as by making existing heart conditions worse and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Research funded by the charity found that fine particulate matter builds up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.
The executive director of healthcare innovation at the British Heart Foundation, Jacob West, 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. 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. That’s why we are urging people to contact their MP and demand a change in the law.”
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 urging the new Government to adopt WHO guidelines into the reintroduced Environment Bill, with a requirement that these limits are met by 2030.
The charity is urging people to write to their MPs, asking them to support the inclusion of WHO air pollution guideline limits in the bill.
To join the BHF’s campaign against toxic air visit here.
More by this authorAlan Smith
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