Air pollution is responsible for one in 18 deaths among people aged 30 or over in Buckinghamshire, new data reveals.

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth says levels of damaging air pollution across the country are an “absolute disgrace”, and has called for new legally enforceable reduction targets.

Public Health England figures show an estimated 5.6 per cent of deaths of people aged 30 or over in Buckinghamshire in 2018 were caused by air pollution.

The data measures deaths associated with long-term exposure to tiny particles known as PM2.5, which have a diameter about three per cent of the width of a human hair.

Vehicle emissions are a major source of the harmful particulate matter, which is also produced by industrial processes and the burning of fuels for heating.

Repeated exposure to the particles can trigger chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease or bronchitis, and cause other respiratory problems.

Across England, 5.2 per cent of deaths of people aged 30 or over were estimated to be due to this type of air pollution in 2018.

Jenny Bates, a campaigner for the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said: "These levels of the most health-damaging air pollution are an absolute disgrace.

“Every year, UK air pollution causes nearly 36,000 early deaths and billions of pounds in costs to the economy. The Government must get a grip on this health crisis.”

Ms Bates added that the new Environment Bill was a “crucial opportunity” to protect healthy air by setting out legally binding targets on particle air pollution to be met by 2030.

Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said councils have introduced a range of measures to tackle air pollution, such as clean air zones, encouraging the use of electric vehicles with recharging points, and promoting cycling.

But he warned that any air quality plans need proper funding and local flexibility to be successful.

He added: “Local powers are also needed to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to moving traffic offences and robust national action to help the country transition to lower emission travel, including cycling and walking and an effective national bus strategy.”

A PHE spokeswoman said poor air quality can particularly affect individuals who are more vulnerable to harm, including those with heart and lung disease, children and the elderly.

She added: "Improving air quality is crucial to reducing the health impacts of air pollution and helping people live longer, healthier lives.”