A leading health charity has urged government to go beyond current proposals to improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, claiming that current legislation does not reflect evidence on air pollution.
British Heart Foundation (BHF) has made the comments in response to the release of the government’s proposals outlined last week in its Clean Air Strategy (see airqualitynews.com story).
Within the package of policies is a commitment to halve the number of people living in areas where particulate matter (PM) levels exceed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) health guidelines.
However, BHF has called upon government to go further by introducing a new Clean Air Act, which would adopt the WHO’s guidelines into UK legislation.
WHO health recommendations call for countries to reduce their air pollution levels to annual mean values of 20 ?g/m3 (for PM10) and 10 ?g/m3 (for PM2.5).
These are far below current limits set out in UK law, which were fixed under the EU’s Air Quality Directive, which sets a mandatory 25 ?g/m3 PM2.5 target, alongside a 40 ?g/m3 objective for PM10 both of which are currently met across the UK.
However, figures published by the WHO this month suggest that a number of towns and cities across the UK are exceeding the health limits, despite meeting their legal obligations (see airqualitynews.com story).
BHF has also released the findings of a public survey, suggesting that 65% of the respondents were concerned about the effect of air pollution on their health.
Of these, 24% said that they believed outdoor air pollution had affected their health in the last few years and three-in-five, 60%, of respondents living with a heart and circulatory condition said they have had to change their way of life to avoid outdoor air pollution.
Simon Gillespie, BHF chief executive, said: “Dangerous levels of air pollution in the UK are damaging the health of the public in the UK – both healthy individuals and particularly those with heart and circulatory disease.
“Recognising World Health Organization air quality guidelines in the draft strategy is a positive step but we’d like to see the government go further by adopting the WHO air quality guidelines into national legislation. These more stringent limits would better protect the nation’s heart and circulatory health.
“Air pollution is silently harming people every day. There is no time to lose. The need for tighter limits could not be more pressing to prevent the detrimental impact on the public’s health in the years to come. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, we urge Government to act now to ensure that we see real progress in the next 25 years.â€?
British Heart Foundation