SPIKES in air pollution cause hundreds of heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma attacks compared with days when the air is cleaner, a study finds.
There are significant short-term health risks caused by air pollution, which contributes to up to 36,000 deaths a year, according to King’s College London.
It looked at nine cities in England — London, Birmingham, Manchester, Derby, Liverpool, Bristol, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton — and found there were an extra 124 cardiac arrests on average during high pollution days.
There were also an average of 231 additional hospital admissions for strokes, with an extra 193 children and adults arriving at hospitals with asthma.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘It’s clear the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency.
Since these avoidable deaths are happening now — not in 2025 or 2050 — together we need to act now.’
The risk was greatest in London, where high pollution days cause an extra 87 cardiac arrests and 144 more strokes, as well as 74 children and 33 adults being treated in hospital for asthma attacks.
Birmingham saw the second-highest risk, with 12 more out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and 27 more admissions for stroke, with 15 extra children and 11 adults needing treatment for asthma.
Manchester, Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton had two to six additional out-of-hospital heart attacks. These saw a rise of between two and 14 extra strokes and up to 14 patients with asthma in hospitals. Only Derby did not see an increase in heart attacks.
Cutting air pollution by a fifth would decrease lung cancer cases by up to seven per cent, the study found.
Dr Heather Walton, of King’s College London, said studies of air pollution ‘show clear links with a much wider range of health effects’ than just life expectancy.
The figures were published ahead of the International Clean Air Summit in London on Wednesday.