Breathing UK's most polluted air 'like smoking 150 cigarettes a year'

5 December 2019, 09:00 | Updated: 5 December 2019, 09:02

London has some of the most polluted areas in the UK
London has some of the most polluted areas in the UK. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Living in the UK's most polluted cities is the "equivalent of smoking 150 cigarettes a year", a charity has warned.

A major study by the British Heart Foundation found that living in heavily polluted cities such as London and Slough increase the risk of an early death.

The study shows that people living in the Newham, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Islington areas of London are worst hit by air pollution - the equivalent to smoking over 150 cigarettes a year on average.

In a statement, the charity called on the government to declare a "public health emergency" and take emergency measures to improve the air quality in larger cities.

It also claims that around 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths each year in the UK are caused by particulate matter air pollution.

Living in some areas is equal to smoking 150 cigarettes every year
Living in some areas is equal to smoking 150 cigarettes every year. Picture: PA Images

Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, said: "Air pollution is a major public health emergency and over many years it has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.

"Unless we take radical measures now to curb air pollution, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame.

"As these figures show, the effect of air pollution on our heart and circulatory system is profound, and we have no choice over the air we breathe in the places we live.

"Legislation was passed over a decade ago to protect people from passive smoke, and similarly decisive must be taken to protect people from air pollution.

"The last government accepted that it is possible to implement tougher WHO air pollution limits, and the next government must now do so protect the health of the nation."

The charity wants the next government to introduce tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits - 10 micrograms per metre cubed - compared to the EU's limit of 25 which the UK currently meets.

Port Talbot has been found to be one of the most polluted areas of the UK
Port Talbot has been found to be one of the most polluted areas of the UK. Picture: PA Images

Top 10 most polluted areas of the UK

1. Port Talbot

2. Scunthorpe

3. Salford

4. Gibraltar

5. Thurrock

6. Gillingham

7. Manchester

8. Swansea

9. Carlisle

10. Chepstow

The Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides is among the least polluted areas of the UK
The Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides is among the least polluted areas of the UK. Picture: PA Images

Top 10 least polluted areas of the UK

1. Outer Hebrides

2. Shetland Islands

3. Scottish Highlands

4. Orkney Islands

5. Argyll and Bute, Scotland

6. Fermanagh and Omagh

7. Derry City and Strabane

8. Moray, Scotland

9. Perth and Kinross

10. Stirling

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