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Heart attack and stroke deaths related to toxic air could exceed 15,000 in West Midlands over the next decade unless Government acts

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned that heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate air pollution could exceed 15,000 over the next decade in the West Midlands region, unless the new Government takes bold action.  

New calculations by the BHF have outlined the stark picture for counties and local authorities in the West Midlands:

County As many as XX heart and circulatory deaths could be attributed to particulate air pollution in the next decade
Herefordshire 610
Shropshire 1,400
Staffordshire 3,300
Warwickshire 1,500
Worcestershire 1,700
West Midlands 6,800

 

Unitary local authority As many as XX heart and circulatory deaths could be attributed to particulate air pollution in the next decade
Birmingham 2,300
Coventry 720
Dudley 910
Sandwell 810
Solihull 550
Stoke-on-Trent 660
Telford and Wrekin 470
Walsall 810
Wolverhampton 720

The charity says air pollution presents 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 has launched 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.

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

BHF-funded research has shown that 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.

Jacob West, Executive Director of Healthcare Innovation at the British Heart Foundation, 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.

In July 2019, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) published findings showing that meeting WHO guidelines on air pollution is “technically feasible” in most areas of the UK by 2030.

BHF research has shown that (PM2.5) can have a seriously detrimental effect to heart health, making existing conditions worse, and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dr Mark Miller, a British Heart Foundation-funded researcher specialising in air pollution, 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.”

To join the BHF’s campaign against toxic air visit: www.bhf.org.uk/demandchange.