Climate Action

Air Pollution could kill 160,000 in the UK over next decade

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has reported that 160,000 lives could be lost in the UK due to high levels of air pollution.

  • 14 January 2020
  • Rachel Cooper

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has reported that 160,000 lives could be lost in the UK due to high levels of air pollution.

The BHF has said that heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade in the UK, unless the new Government takes bold action.

This is equivalent to over 40 heart and circulatory disease deaths related to air pollution each day.  

Jacob West, the BHF’s 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."

It’s estimated that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year. 

Research funded by the BHF 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.

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 charity says air pollution presents a 'major public health emergency' which must be urgently addressed by the new Government. It is calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter (PM) to be adopted into UK law, and met by 2030.

The BHF are calling for people to write to their MPs, urging them to support the inclusion of WHO air pollution guideline limits in the bill. 
Dr Mark Miller, a British Heart Foundation-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."