More than 500 people in York could die of heart attacks and strokes caused by toxic air

A cyclist stuck in traffic on Low Petergate, York. Photograph: YorkMix
16 Jan 2020 @ 9.59 pm
| Health & fitness

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned that heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to air pollution could exceed 500 in York over the next decade.

The charity says air pollution presents a ‘major public health emergency’ which must be urgently addressed by the new government.

It’s estimated that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.


BHF-funded research has found that high levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, such as by making existing heart conditions worse and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

It says 560 people in the City of York Council area could suffer heart and circulatory disease deaths which could be attributed to air pollution in the next decade.

Jacob West of the BHF said:

  • 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 60s, and more recently the smoking ban in public places, show that government action can improve the air we breathe.

    Decision makers across the country owe it to future generations to help stop this alarming figure from becoming a reality.

Stark reminder

Cleaner buses are part of the plan. Photograph: KK70088on Flickr
Executive member for environment and climate change on City of York Council Cllr Paula Widdowson said: “This campaign provides a stark reminder as to why this work is so important and is why in York we are doing a lot to improve air quality.

“Recently these include our Clean Air Zone work, which has seen us award over £1.6 million to five local bus operators to reduce nitrogen oxide / particulate emissions from their vehicles and hence improve air quality in the city centre.”

She said the ‘Kick the Habit’ anti-idling campaign is also improving air quality by encouraging drivers to switch off their engines when parked up and waiting.


Cllr Widdowson added:

  • We also continue to promote active travel through our work with schools and employers and provision of high quality off-road cycle and walking infrastructure – most recently the £4 million investment in improving the Scarborough Bridge.

    This work is having a positive impact across York with one of the air quality zones in Fulford (where significant improvement was needed) has been removed because we were significantly below the limits for the last four years following work in the area.

    Our budget proposals include further in environmentally friendly initiatives, including increasing the number of Electric Vehicle Chargers so this work can continue, improving air quality and increasing sustainable travel across York as we work to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Health trainer service

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health and adult social care, said: “As well as the environmental benefits, we know there are so many health benefits to people young and old breathing in clean air.”

She said the council’s public health team provides a health trainer service to support residents.

“Health Trainers work with residents on a 1:1 basis to provide practical support to help people to improve their heart health.

“This could be providing advice around a healthy diet, undertaking a health check to help people find out what their current heart health is like, or supporting people to become more physically active.”