44 UK towns and cities breaching air pollution limits

New research finds Glasgow, London, Leeds, Southampton and 40 other urban areas have hazardous pollution levels

Exhaust emissions

A new study has found 44 UK towns and cities have dangerous levels of air pollution.

The findings, discovered by researchers from the Royal College of Physicians, indicate levels of ‘PM2.5’ – microscopic particles suspended in the atmosphere – are over and above recommended levels in several urban areas. 

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The World Health Organisation says PM2.5 levels shouldn’t exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air, but average concentrations of these particles in Glasgow and Scunthorpe were 16 micrograms per cubic metre in 2016, while mean levels in London, Leeds, Southampton and Salford were recorded at 15 micrograms per cubic metre over the same period.

Of the 51 UK towns and cities in the World Health Organisation’s ambient air pollution database, 44 breached recommended limits in 2016, with residents in Leeds, Bristol, Eastbourne, Birmingham and Manchester among those affected. People living in Bournemouth, Sunderland, Aberdeen and Reading, meanwhile, will be reassured to learn their home towns met or undercut recommended PM2.5 levels.

PM2.5 particles are defined as solid or liquid particles under 2.5 microns in diameter that are suspended in the atmosphere. These particles are produced by any number of sources, but research indicates road transport is responsible for a significant proportion of kerbside PM2.5 levels. Excess concentrations of these particles is associated with a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular illness and respiratory ailments such as asthma.

The report’s authors said initiatives that aim to tackle urban pollution – such as the recently-introduced T-Charge in London  - were “much needed”, but Dr Toby Hillman, one of the researchers behind the study, cautioned: “we know the effects of poor air quality run from cradle to grave; it’s a lifetime threat to human health.” 

WHO's UK ambient air pollution list

Town/cityMean 2016 PM2.5 levels (μg/m3)

 

 

Glasgow16
Scunthorpe16
Eastbourne15
Leeds15
London15
Salford15
Southampton15
Armagh14
Birmingham14
Cardiff14
Chepstow14
Gibraltar14
Oxford14
Port Talbot14
Portsmouth14
Stanford-le-Hope14
Stoke-on-Trent14
Thurrock14
Warrington14
Bristol13
Leamington Spa13
Manchester13
Newport13
Norwich13
Wigan13
Belfast12
Carlisle12
Hull12
Liverpool12
Nottingham12
Plymouth12
Prestonpans12
Swansea12
York12
Birkenhead11
Brighton11
Londonderry11
Middlesbrough11
Saltash11
Southend-on-Sea11
Chesterfield10
Newcastle upon Tyne10
Reading10
Stockton-on-Tees10
Wrexham10
Aberdeen9
Bournemouth9
Grangemouth9
Sunderland9
Edinburgh8
Inverness6

Is your town or city on the list? What should be done to reduce air pollution? Join the debate in the comments area below...

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