AIR pollution across Essex could be responsible for as many as 4,900 deaths in the next decade, a study has suggested.

Research carried out by the British Heart Foundation found heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter air pollution could exceed 160,000 in the UK.

This is equivalent to more than 40 heart and circulatory disease deaths related to air pollution each day.

In Essex the figure was 4,900 heart and circulatory deaths predicated.

The charity is calling on the UK to declare air pollution a public health emergency.

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

Research has shown high levels of air pollution can have a harmful effect on health, including by making existing heart conditions worse and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

It has also found fine particulate matter builds up around the body, including in the fatty plaques of diseased arteries.

Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the charity, 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.

“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.

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

Last year a study by the charity found breathing in Colchester’s air is the equivalent to smoking 123 cigarettes every year.

Its figures show Colchester has an average daily PM2.5 exposure of 9.7mg per cubic metre.

Tendring fared slightly better with a PM2.5 reading of 9.1mg, comparable to smoking 116 cigarettes annually.