Three quarters of UK adults unaware of impact of air pollution on the heart

15 June 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

air pollution on the m6

Eight in ten deaths related to air pollution are caused by a heart attack or stroke, however data released today has revealed that three in four adults are unaware of the extent of the impact that air pollution can have on the heart. 

Today Global Action Plan (GAP) has launched the UK’s first ever National Clean Air Day with support from the BHF, as part of a 50-strong coalition. The campaign aims to educate and inspire the nation to act on air pollution and engage over 2 million Brits with over 100 events in dozens of towns and cities across the UK. 

To mark the day, GAP has released figures which highlight the public’s knowledge and levels of concern around air pollution. This uncovered several misconceptions and a lack of understanding from the general public, when it comes to the harmful effects of air pollution.  

The results

  • Three out of four adults are unaware of the extent of the impact that air pollution can have on the heart. In reality, heart conditions cause the majority of premature deaths from outdoor pollution, with 80% of deaths a result of a heart attack or stroke 
  • 96% of parents don’t think driving exposes people to the most air pollution when travelling compared to cycling and walking. However experiments conducted by King’s College London showed that a driver was exposed to nine times more pollution compared to a cyclist taking the exact same route
  • Just under half of those surveyed (43%) believe they are safe from harm with the car windows closed. 37% of school journeys are taken by car - proving that a large number of children are therefore affected
  • 47% of those asked believe that facemasks is an effective way to protect them from air pollution. However, air quality scientists suggest that masks have little effect in filtering out the microscopic particles of air pollution that can have the most damaging health impact

What’s air pollution got to do with the heart? 

We are funding over £1.7million of research to find out more about how air pollution damages the heart and circulatory system. Some of our most recent research found that tiny nanoparticles, like those found in air pollution, can travel into the blood and accumulate in diseased blood vessels. The study suggested that air pollution nanoparticles are able to get into the bloodstream to cause heart disease.

Why it’s important to us 

Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said: “Each year in the UK there are approximately 40,000 premature deaths that are related to air pollution. Heart attack and stroke account for 80% of the global death toll linked to poor air quality, therefore it is highly concerning that most adults don’t know the damaging effect that air pollution can have on the heart.

Although people should not have to risk their health because of the environment they live in, there are practical changes people can make - like cycling or walking - instead of exposing themselves to higher levels of air pollution inside a car. 

“However, crucially we need to see the Government implement bold measures to protect the nation’s health against this hidden killer and we look forward to working with them to make safe, clean air a reality.”

Read more about air pollution

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