Air pollution data revealed today shows that 49 UK towns and cities are at or over World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) – with the expanded database uncovering new examples of dangerously polluted air across the UK.
The list of areas on the WHO database failing standards for PM2.5 pollution ranges from cities such as London, Manchester and Nottingham; to smaller towns like Prestonpans and Eccles, demonstrating that air pollution is an issue not exclusive to the UK’s largest city centres. Friends of the Earth is calling for the UK to adhere to WHO standards for air pollution.
While the expansion of the WHO’s air quality database shows an increasing awareness of the public health crisis that is air pollution, it also further highlights that much more needs to be done to clean up the air we breathe, and fast.
Air pollution from particulates can cause lung cancer, and worsen heart and lung disease. Research has found there is no safe limit of exposure. The WHO air pollution database also only tells part of the story, as it does not include figures on the deadly nitrogen dioxide gas which is also polluting our air and harming our health.
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said:
“As more air quality data becomes available, we are uncovering a deeply concerning number of seemingly quaint, fresh aired places across the UK with dangerously polluted air. This demonstrates the need for further research, for us to properly understand and improve the state of air pollution across the UK.
“There is no such thing as a safe level of air pollution, though years of government complacency suggests they think otherwise.
“For the health and wellbeing of everyone, we need the forthcoming Air Quality Strategy to take a decisive stance and address air pollution from all sources. We need to see measures including a stronger national network of Clean Air Zones, a diesel scrappage scheme and investment in walking, cycling and public transport to enable as many car-free journeys as possible.”