Pollution is major public health crisis according to new report from PHE

2 March 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

People are being exposed to a ‘daily cocktail’ of pollution that may be having a significant impact on their health, according to a new report released today by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

a picture showing the view down the river thames with a haze

Effect on health not fully understood

Professor Davies has said the impact of air, light and noise pollution on our physical environment is well recognised, but its effect on health was yet to be fully understood.

The report focuses on the impact of pollution on health, highlighting how little is known in this area and the need for better systems to effectively monitor, understand and act on the health implications of pollution.

Clear communication to public essential

The report also emphasises the role of pollution as a long-term risk factor for life-threatening diseases, including cardiovascular disease. It also highlights the importance of clear communication with the public about known health risks of pollution and what can be done. 

Air pollution contributes to around 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, and the extent of its damage to our cardiovascular health is becoming clearer thanks to research.

Research shows that both long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution can make existing heart conditions worse, and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly among the most vulnerable in society.

Bold action on pollution now

John Maingay, our director of Policy and Public Affairs said: “There is a strong link between pollution and life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, and it is right that the report highlights this. Globally, 80% of air pollution related deaths are due to heart disease or stroke, and research has shown that both short and long term exposure to poor air quality can worsen existing heart conditions.

“Despite needing more research to understand exactly how air pollution damages hearts this should not stop us from taking bold action to improve UK’s toxic air right now.

“We agree with the Chief Medical Officer that the UK’s national air pollution limits should be driven by an ambition to protect health, which is why we would like to see the World Health Organisation air quality guidelines adopted into UK law.”