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Campaigners urge Government to act faster on air pollution

Tuesday February 4th, 2020

The Government has a “once in a generation opportunity” to tackle air pollution, campaigners say today, warning that millions are at risk.

Analysis by British Heart Foundation reveals that about 15 million people in the UK – almost a quarter of the population – live in areas where average levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exceed guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation.

While the UK subscribes to EU limits on levels of PM2.5, these are not as strict as those set out by WHO.

The previous Government’s Clean Air Strategy, published in January 2019, set out a number of commitments aimed at reducing levels of major air pollutants, including halving the number of people living in areas above the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 by 2025; reducing emissions; and setting a new long-term target to reduce people’s exposure to PM2.5.

Now, BHF, is urging Government to adopt WHO’s strict air pollution limits into UK law by 2030, adding that the Environment Bill, which returned to Parliament last week, is a “golden opportunity to set this in motion”.

The Bill promises to set legally binding air pollution targets, but BHF says some important commitments are missing, including pledges to adopt the stricter WHO guideline limits.

Jacob West, director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, said: “This government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take brave political action in cleaning up our toxic air.

“Tackling a public health emergency on this scale requires serious and sustained commitment. This could mean changes that might not be easy or convenient for organisations or individuals, but they will prove crucial to protecting people’s health.

“You only have to look at past Clean Air Acts or more recently the smoking ban for examples of bold legislation that has improved the air we all breathe.

“The uncomfortable truth is that UK heart and circulatory deaths attributed to air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade unless we take radical steps now.”

The BHF’s report summarises some of the latest evidence of the damaging effects of PM2.5 on heart and circulatory health, including exposure to diesel fumes, which can increase the risk of blood clots, and a correlation between poor air quality and increased hospitalisation and deaths due to heart failure.

Tags: Heart Health | Respiratory | UK News

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