TOXIC air could cause hundreds of deaths in Coventry in the next decade, a health charity has warned.
The British Heart Foundation is pushing for government action on air pollution in major cities, predicting heart and lung disease deaths attributed to particulate air pollution could exceed 15,000 over the next decade in the West Midlands region.
Coventry could see as many as 720 heart and circulatory deaths due to toxic particles in the air, with 6,800 across the West Midlands.
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 to be adopted in to UK law, and met by 2030.
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, with up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.
The particles cause disease when fine 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 World Health Organisation are more stringent than the European Union’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.