BHF urges Supreme Court to get tough on UK air pollution

16 April 2015        

Air pollution on motorway

Supreme Court judges must force the UK Government to speed up drastically its plans to improve UK air quality in order to protect the nation’s hearts from the adverse effects of air pollution according to our Director of Policy.

The UK Government was found guilty of breaching EU nitrogen dioxide limits in 16 different cities and regions, sparking a four-year battle in UK and EU courts to bring standards into line.

People with heart conditions are vulnerable to air pollution as it can make existing conditions worse and increase the risk of a heart attack. Recent BHF-funded research from the University of Edinburgh, published last month, has also shown exposure to air pollution increases the risk of hospitalisation or death from stroke.

Estimates show the Government’s current plans to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions would not meet legal limits in some areas until after 2030 – 20 years after the original 2010 targets were supposed to be met.

Last year, the European Court of Justice decreed the UK must comply with EU regulations in the shortest time possible. 

In a final hearing today, Supreme Court judges were asked to echo that ruling and order the UK Government to publish an action plan to improve air quality in these regions.

The Supreme Court will make its final judgment in the next few months. 

Mike Hobday, our Director of Policy, said: “For four years vulnerable heart patients have been exposed to illegally high levels of air pollution because the UK Government has failed to clean up the nation’s dirty air.

“It’s vital the Supreme Court finally holds the Government to account and orders them to act swiftly to ensure that the air we breathe is safe and does not do any further undue harm to our hearts.”

Find out more about our policy on air pollution. 

Find out more about our research on air pollution.