160,000 people in the UK could die during the 2020s due to heart attacks and strokes caused by air pollution.
These are the findings of a British Heart Foundation (BHF) study which warns that unless laws are introduced to limit current air pollution levels, then their current estimated figure of 11,000 deaths a year will increase significantly.
As part of their new campaign, ‘You’re full of it,‘ which aims to bring attention to the fact that we are all inhaling dangerous levels of PM2.5 every day, a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh carried out a study to highlight the health risks of particulate matter (PM2.5).
The researchers asked a group of volunteers to breathe in harmless gold nanoparticles which were designed to mimic PM2.5.
The researchers found that the gold particles moved from the lungs to the blood and urine within 24 hours, the particles could even be detected in the blood three months after exposure to the nanoparticles.
According to the researchers, this shows that high levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, including making existing conditions worse and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In the Environment Bill, the government announced that they would introduce ‘ambitious and legally binding targets to reduce PM2.5.’
However, so far they have not stated what these standards will be.
The current EU guidelines on PM2.5 indicate that the annual mean should not exceed 25μg/m3, whereas the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a much stricter guideline of 10 μg/m3.
The BHF is urging the government to adopt WHO guidelines and the charity is asking people to write to their MPs to encourage them to support the inclusion of WHO air pollution guideline limits in the bill.
Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation, 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.
‘Decision-makers across the country owe it to future generations to help stop this alarming figure from becoming a reality.’
Dr Mark Miller, a BHF researcher specialising in air pollution, said: ‘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.’
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