The Government must go further and faster with plans to tackle air pollution in London to have any chance of cleaning up our toxic air, a report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) warns.
BHF analysis of the latest official data shows that every London borough has average levels of tiny toxic particles in the air which exceed guidelines set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
That means every Londoner is likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of these particles, known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5.
Newham has the highest average PM 2.5 in the whole country, with annual figures exceeding WHO limits. The borough’s population of 352,000 are likely to be subjected to dangerous levels of particulate matter pollution as they work, study and go about their everyday lives.
The other boroughs with the worst average PM 2.5 are Waltham Forest (population 277,000), Barking and Dagenham (211,000) and Kensington and Chelsea (156,000).
One year on, the BHF says that the nation’s health cannot wait. Promising first steps must become great strides forward, the first of which should be adopting the WHO’s strict air pollution limits into UK law by 2030.
The Environment Bill, which returned to Parliament last week, is a golden opportunity to set this in motion, the charity adds. The Bill promises the setting of legally binding air pollution targets, but some important commitments are missing from it, 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.”
West emphasised that addressing a serious issue such as air quality requires commitment such as organisations and individuals making changes that can affect their daily lifestyle.
“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,” West said.
The BHF’s report also summarises some of the latest evidence of the damaging effects of PM2.5 on heart and circulatory health. Research has shown that exposure to diesel fumes can increase the risk of blood clots that lead to heart attacks, as well as a correlation between poor air quality and increased hospitalisation and deaths due to heart failure.
West urges everyone to write to their MP demanding the law be changed regarding a healthier environment.
“We can’t see them, but every day, we all breathe in tiny toxic particles which damage our heart and circulatory health,” West said. “They are an invisible killer.”