Hundreds more people have heart attacks, strokes or asthma attacks on days where air pollution levels are high, according to new research by King’s College London and UK100.
Researchers studied Defra’s AURN monitoring stations during 2015, 2016 and 2017 to analyse days in England’s 9 largest cities where particulate matter levels were both high and low – and then looked at NHS figures on out-of-hospital heart attacks as well as hospitalisations for strokes and asthma.
The figures show that higher air pollution days trigger an extra 124 heart attacks, 231 strokes and 193 asthma attacks.
London saw 87 more heart attacks and Birmingham had 53 children or adults hospitalised for asthma or strokes.
The research, which will be published in full in November, is being released ahead of the International Clean Air Summit being hosted by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and UK100 this week (Wednesday October 23).
The government introduced its Environment Bill in Parliament last Monday (October 15), which confirmed it may be another three years until a target is set for reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
The summit is expected to push the UK government to provide new powers and resources to local authorities to improve air quality.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said the findings show that the ‘climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency’
‘Since these avoidable deaths are happening now – not in 2025 or 2050 – together we need to act now. For the NHS that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one fifth in the past decade,’ he added.
‘So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.’
Dr Heather Walton, health expert on the project at Environmental Research Group, King’s College, London said: ‘The impact of air pollution on our health has been crucial in justifying air pollution reduction policies for some time, and mostly concentrates on effects connected to life-expectancy.
‘However, health studies show clear links with a much wider range of health effects. This project provides short statements of fact, backed up by supporting evidence.
‘We have released a sample of these statements about the effects in a number of UK cities, ahead of publication of the full report in November. This wider range of impacts on our health provides additional evidence of the important need for further action to reduce air pollution.’
In September, and for the first time, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) included in its guidelines the impact of air pollution on patients with chronic heart problems.
The ESC is an independent, nonprofit organisation aiming to tackle cardiovascular disease and each year they publish updated guidelines for doctors and cardiologists in the European Heart Journal, and on the ESC website.
Alongside several risk factors for heart disease, including poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise, they say air pollution is now recognised to be one of the 10 leading risk factors for global mortality and exposure to pollutants increases the risk of heart attacks as well as hospitalisation and death from heart failure or strokes.
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