Kate met with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) at Labour Party Conference to discuss the need for urgent action to clean up the nation’s air.
Every year in the UK, air pollution is responsible for 11,000 heart and circulatory deaths. Fine particles, known as PM2.5, are so small that we can’t see them in the air around us or avoid inhaling them as we breathe. They then enter the bloodstream, where they can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The UK currently subscribes to EU legal limits on PM2.5. However, these are not as strict as the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), which the BHF is calling for the UK government to adopt.
Kate heard that as the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK, the BHF is committed to accelerating research into understanding the impact that air pollution has on the heart and circulatory system, and how to combat it.
BHF-funded research has already shown that air pollution can damage the inside walls of the blood vessels, causing them to stiffen. The effects of air pollution can also restrict the movement of blood vessels, which can increase a person’s blood pressure and put strain on their heart. It can also make your blood more likely to clot.
All of this can put people living with some existing conditions, such as coronary heart disease, at increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Worryingly, there are an estimated 12,000 people living in Stretford and Urmston with a heart and circulatory condition. Air pollution can also have a detrimental impact on people with healthy hearts.
The BHF are calling on the government to commit to adopting WHO guidelines on air pollution by 2030.
Kate said: “It was great to speak with the BHF to learn how the charity is leading the way in the fight against air pollution.
“I agree that air pollution is a public health emergency and urgent action needs to be taken to clean up the nation’s air. Adopting the WHO’s guidelines is an important step in the right direction in achieving this goal, and I will continue to work with the BHF to ensure this is a priority for the government.”
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Air pollution can have devastating impacts on the heart and circulatory system, as well as the lungs.
“It is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with around 11,000 deaths a year from heart disease and circulatory conditions like stroke attributed to long-term exposure to polluted air. We need to see stricter guidelines on air pollution as a matter of urgency. We’re delighted that kate shares our commitment to ensuring that we have clean air that is safe to breathe. We now need Government to put this commitment into practice by including binding WHO air quality limits in law and guaranteeing our air is safe to breathe by the end of the next decade.”