A new study has found that the hearts of people who live in polluted areas are weaker than those who regularly breathe cleaner air. Researchers found evidence of harm even when levels of pollution were less than half the safety limit.

Current air pollution levels unsafe

The current levels of air pollution allowed are “not safe and should be lowered” said an expert. It was also advised that people should stay as far away from the kerb as possible when walking on the pavement to reduce expose to exhaust fumes.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation shows the death rate caused by air pollution in the UK is 25.7 per 100,000 people. The figure is just 0.4 per 100,000 in Sweden and 14.7 per 100,000 in Spain.

In total about 40,000 people die early because of the air they breathe according to a Government estimate.

Proof fine particles pass into bloodstream

The process by which air pollution harms the body has been poorly understood. It was not known if fine particles could pass through the lungs into the bloodstream until recently. A study where volunteers inhaled gold nanoparticles showed it was possible. Gold appeared in their blood and urine of volunteers 15 minutes after breathing it in. The particles were still there up to three months later.

Many UK cities breach legal limits

New analysis has shown 59% of Britons are living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution. Almost 40 million people live in towns and cities where the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are above legal limits set by the EU. The recent study raises fresh concerns over the public health impact of air pollution after a string of findings linked poor air quality to disease and early death.

Towns and cities including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield all breach NO2 limits. Many areas of London also exceed legal limits. In the capital alone NO2 pollution caused by diesel vehicles is responsible for 5,900 early deaths each year.

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