More than 160,000 people could die over the next decade from strokes and heart attacks caused by air pollution, a report has warned.
That is the equivalent of more than 40 heart and circulatory disease deaths related to air pollution every day.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which compiled the figures, said there are an estimated 11,000 deaths per year at the moment, but that this will rise as the population continues to age.
It wants the UK to adopt World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on air pollution and meet them by 2030.
The WHO limits are tougher, at 10μg/m3 as an annual average.
The BHF said PM2.5 can have a “seriously detrimental effect to heart health”, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke and making existing health problems worse.
Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, said: “Every day, millions of us across the country are inhaling toxic particles which enter our blood and get stuck in our organs, raising our risk of heart attacks and stroke. Make no mistake, our toxic air is a public health emergency, and we haven’t done enough to tackle this threat to our society.
“We need to ensure that stricter, health-based air quality guidelines are adopted into law to protect the health of the nation as a matter of urgency. Clean air legislation in the 1950s and 1960s, and more recently the smoking ban in public places, show that government action can improve the air we breathe.”