AIR pollution could kill thousands of people in the next ten years, the British Heart Foundation has warned.

The charity said 460 people in Brighton and Hove could die from heart and circulatory diseases caused by toxic air in the next decade.

This number could exceed 21,000 in the South East, and nationally, the charity estimates that 11,000 people die each year from heart and circulatory disease due to particulate air pollution.

The new calculations present a stark picture of what the charity describes as a “major public health emergency”.

Jacob West, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “Every day, millions of us across the country 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 and we haven’t done enough to tackle this threat to our society.”

The charity said people are “unwittingly inhaling dangerous levels of particulate matter in towns and cities across the UK” and it is calling for stricter air pollution limits. It said Boris Johnson’s new government needs to take “bold action” to tackle the crisis.

Mr West said: “We need to ensure 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, shows 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. That’s why we are urging people to contact their MPs and demand a change in the law.”

The charity is calling for World Health Organisation guidelines on particulate matter to be adopted into UK law, and for these targets to be met by 2030.

High levels of air pollution can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke and make existing heart conditions worse. Research funded by the charity found fine particulate matter builds up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.

BHF researcher Dr Mark Miller said: “While there is no safe level of air pollution exposure, adopting stricter guidelines will do a great deal to protect our health.”