People living in UK towns and cities are 25 times more likely to die from long-term exposure to poisonous air than a car crash, and those living in the south are at greatest risk, a charity has warned.
The charity is calling for the UK government to bring in stricter guidelines for pollution to bring it inline with the Scottish government.
Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are greatest near industrial areas and cities, where toxic pollutants include combustion particles, ash, soot, dust and metals which, due to their tiny size, are not filtered by the nose or throat and can go deep into the lungs and even enter the circulatory system.
They can subsequently lead to heart attacks, respiratory disease, and premature death.
Inhalation of PM2.5 at any level is likely to cause “adverse effects”, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
But in the south of the country the picture is bleakest with one in 16 deaths attributable to poisonous air.
Meanwhile, cities in Scotland and northern England have the lowest proportion of PM2.5-related deaths.
Aberdeen is the city with the lowest pollution-related death rate at one in 33, followed by Dundee, Glasgow, Blackpool and Edinburgh, with similar levels.
More than 60 per cent of roads nationwide exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for toxic levels of air pollution.
Zak Bond of the British Lung Foundation said the charity is calling on the government to adopt the air pollution limits the WHO has advised countries to aim for by 2030.
Mr Bond said: “Whilst it’s shocking that more than one in 19 deaths in UK towns and cities can be linked to air pollution, it doesn’t tell the full story in terms of the millions of people whose lives are affected on a daily basis.
“Breathing in toxic air is bad for everyone and can lead to a wide range of health conditions including lung disease, stroke and cancer.