New report details most polluted towns and cities

A new report by the World Health Organization has revealed that 47 towns and cities across the UK have reached or have exceeded air pollution limits.

The global report estimates that seven million people die each year from exposure to air pollution globally, with the majority of these deaths occurring in Asia and Africa. Fine air particle pollution is a leading cause of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections.

However, focusing on the UK, the report found that 32 areas have fine particle air pollution levels above 10 micrograms per cubic metre, the limit set by WHO, with the remaining 15 currently at that limit. Port Talbot in Wales was noted as the worst, recording fine particle air pollution levels of 18 micrograms per cubic metre.

In contrast, some UK towns have air pollution levels which are falling. Levels fell from 17 to 11 micrograms from 2013 to 2015 in London, while in the same period it fell from 17 micrograms to 12 in Sheffield.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “These figures from the World Health Organisation show that as a country we still have a long way to go in the fight against air pollution, with several UK cities exceeding the air quality standards needed to protect health.

“We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and heart health with almost six in ten global deaths related to outdoor air pollution caused by a heart attack or stroke. Our research has shown that air pollution, particularly from small particles in diesel fumes, increases the risk of these potentially deadly occurrences therefore it’s vital that the government takes immediate action in order to tackle this urgent public health crisis. The UK government needs to show leadership by adopting WHO air quality guidelines into national legislation and in doing so, help to protect the nation’s heart and circulatory health.”