British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru has launched a petition calling on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for air pollution into Welsh law.
The petition, which ends October 1, also wants to introduce a new Clean Air Act for Wales.
What is air pollution?
Air pollution is made up of a range of different pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter. The EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive, which came into effect in 2010, set annual average limits for nitrogen dioxide concentration, particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
The Welsh Government was taken to court by environmental lobby group Client Earth at the end of 2017 after failing to produce effective plans to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in Wales.
The High Court ruled that the government must have a plan in place by 31 July; however, a week before that deadline, an application for an extension was received and approved, meaning the government has until 30 November to produce the final plans.
Even so, the EU guidelines are nearly double the WHO guidelines for fine particulate matter, and so the charity has launched this petition to call on the Welsh Government to commit to further reducing these harmful pollutants; and ensuring that the pledge to protect future generations’ health also factors in clean air.
Improving air quality across Wales
Since 2010, the BHF has invested £3.2m in research to help understand the impact of air pollution on our heart and circulation. Unlike the days when cities were covered in smog, it is no longer possible to see air pollution, but these fine pollutants can still have a major impact on our heart health.
Fine particulate matter can be particularly damaging to the circulatory system and heart, especially in more vulnerable groups with existing conditions.
Head of BHF Cymru Adam Fletcher said: “Our research has helped to identify that air pollution, especially fine and ultra fine particulate matter, can cause cardiovascular health problems and make existing heart conditions worse.
“Current legal air quality limits for Wales do not protect health. The EU limits which are observed by UK and Welsh Governments are the same as the World Health Organisation’s recommended upper guideline limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), but are less stringent than the WHO’s threshold for other health-harmful pollutants such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
“Improving air quality across Wales will benefit everyone, particularly vulnerable groups whose lives are impacted by outdoor air pollution.”
The BHF is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular disease in the UK and invests around £100 million in life-saving research each year.
For over fifty years the BHF pioneered research that has helped to halve the number of people dying from heart and circulatory disease. It is committed to fighting for every heartbeat and tackling the causes of heart disease.