Air pollution spikes cause hundreds more cardiac arrests and strokes in the UK

21 October 2019        

Category: BHF Comment

Hundreds of cardiac arrests and strokes in the UK are likely to be caused by sudden spikes in air pollution, according to new research by a team at King’s College London.

The evidence suggests that days when pollutants were in the top half of the annual range, there were on average an extra 124 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

In addition, across the nine cities where data were collected, there were an average of 231 additional hospital admissions due to stroke on these same days.

Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said:

“These findings are yet more proof of the serious impact air pollution has on the nation’s health, and in particular highlight how our heart and circulatory systems are damaged.

“It’s estimated that long-term exposure to polluted air is responsible for around 11,000 deaths a year from a heart attack or stroke in the UK alone. BHF research has shown that damage caused by air pollution can contribute towards the development of new health problems, or put people with existing heart and circulatory conditions at increased risk.

“The time to act is now. We desperately need to see decision makers seize the opportunity and adopt stricter World Health Organization guidelines on air pollution, and this commitment must be cemented in the Environment Bill.”

Public health crisis

Although it may not be visible to the naked eye, air pollution is the biggest environmental cause of heart and circulatory disease in the UK.

Fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, are so small that they enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the heart. Exposure to air pollution has been shown to damage blood vessels and increase the risk of blood clots.

The UK currently subscribes to EU regulations on air pollution, which aren’t as strict as those set out by the WHO, putting thousands of people across the UK at danger.

The nine cities included in the new research were London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton.

The full research is due to be published in November.

more ON our life saving research into air pollution