Air pollution is a bigger global killer than smoking, research has shown.
A major new study suggests 8.8 million deaths a year across the world can be attributed to dirty air.
This is mainly caused by fine sooty particles pouring out of vehicle exhausts, factories and power plants.
Co-author Prof Thomas Munzel, from the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, said: “To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates was responsible for an extra 7.2 million deaths in 2015.
“Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.”
Air pollution was thought to have caused 64,000 deaths in the UK in 2015, including 17,000 fatal cases of heart and artery disease.
Prof Metin Avkiran, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “Air pollution is clearly a huge problem across Europe, where our legal limits are less stringent than those recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“We need to see these international guidelines in UK law in order to drive decisive action to tackle air pollution and protect the nation’s health.”
However, Britons were not as badly affected as some of their European neighbours. In Germany, air pollution was said to have been responsible for an extra 124,000 deaths in 2015.
Additional reporting by Press Association.