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British Safety Council has responded to two new studies by researchers at Harvard University, which found that exposure to even the smallest amounts of harmful particulate matter can have profound and lasting impacts on human health, as well as new lower limits on air pollution set by the European Union (EU). 

Peter McGettrick, Chairman of British Safety Council said: “This study, and the welcome move by the EU, is another stark reminder that the UK Government needs to go further in reducing harmful particulate matter across the UK. 

"We know that there is no safe amount of exposure to small particulate matter and that the quality of the air we breathe is inextricably linked to health and wellbeing outcomes. These risks are inherently heightened for outdoor workers, whose working environments provide long-term exposure to heightened levels of harmful particulate matter.

“Experts are right to caution that even the EU's stricter guidelines don’t go far enough, as they permit levels of air pollution almost two times higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance recommends.”

It is estimated that 36,000 people, across the UK, die each year from exposure to airborne pollution, with one in every five UK citizens (more than twelve million) suffering from respiratory illnesses that are exacerbated by exposure to particulate matter. One in ten cases of lung cancer have been linked to outdoor air pollution with scientists finding higher rates of other types of cancer in areas with high concentrations of PM2.5.

One of the studies, which tracked the impacts of air pollution for 60 million Americans over 16 years found an increased risk of hospitalisation from seven major types of cardiovascular disease. This finding coincides with the European Union’s decision to set stricter limits on airborne particulate matter across its member states.

You can see the full studies here and here.