Air pollution could cause 12,000 fatal heart attacks and strokes over next decade, charities warn
HEART and stroke-related deaths linked to air pollution could hit almost 12,000 across Ireland over the next decade, according to two charities.
The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) and Irish Heart Foundation issued the stark warning and made a joint plea for greater action to tackle the "public health emergency" on an all-island basis.
This would include a ban on the worst polluting fuels in both jurisdictions.
The northern charity has invested £5.8 million in medical research which showed that high levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, increasing the risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.
Its study revealed that particulate matter (PM) - tiny particles in the air not visible to the naked eye - can remain in the bloodstream for at least three months.
This can lead to the build-up of fatty materials inside the arteries, causing blood clots and potentially affecting the normal electrical functioning of the heart.
Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI, said: "Every day, millions of us across the UK and Ireland 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."
Dr Tim Collins, chief executive of Irish Heart Foundation, said it is the most vulnerable children and adults living with chronic diseases who will be most affected.
"Air pollution does not respect boundaries and on the island of Ireland, toxic air from the burning of solid fuel in the home is having a detrimental impact on the health of those both north and south of the border," he said.
"Unless air pollution is addressed across both jurisdictions, thousands of more lives will be lost as the modelling suggests."