Air pollution could cause more than 160,000 deaths in the UK over the next decade through heart and circulatory diseases, a charity has warned.
This is equivalent to over 40 heart and circulatory disease deaths related to air pollution each day.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said air pollution is 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 into UK law and met by 2030.
It is estimated that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.
Research shows 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. Fine particulate matter can build up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.
Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, said millions of people across the country are inhaling toxic particles which enter their blood and get stuck in their organs, raising the 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,” he warned.
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 limits set by the WHO are more stringent than the EU’s.