1,845 sites across the UK breached the annual Air Quality Objective for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, following a data audit from Friends of the Earth.
The charity analysed the most recent local authority annual Air Quality Status Reports submitted to the government, which painted a worrying picture of millions across the country breathing polluted air on a daily basis.
The worst place in the country for NO2 emissions was Earls Court Station in London which had an average annual level of NO2 in ug/m3 of 129.5, more than three times the Air Quality Objective of 40ug/m3.
Locations in London took up 8 of the top 10 spaces, and outside of the capital, Neville Street in Leeds, close to the city’s train station, was found to have levels of 99 ug/m3.
Friends of the Earth is calling on local authorities to implement more Clean Air Zones throughout the country and improve infrastructure to support safe cycling and walking.
UK locations ranked by annual average level of NO2 (in ug/m3) – the Objective is 40ug/m3:
UK locations (outside of London) ranked by annual average level of NO2 (in ug/m3):
Simon Bowens, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly two thousand locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air.
‘Air pollution is often an issue thought of as affecting only the biggest cities. The reality is that unacceptably toxic air can be found across much of the UK, even in smaller towns. It is harming the health of people across the country and is especially bad for young children whose lungs are still developing.
‘The government needs to step up and do more to help deal with this air pollution crisis – they can’t just carry on leaving the difficult decisions with local authorities, many of which are severely under-resourced.’
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation called the analysis, ‘shocking, but sadly not surprising.’
‘In 2017 it was estimated that 37 out of 43 UK areas were still breaching legal limits for NO2. We should have met legal limits back in 2010, but almost 10 years later, NO2 levels remain dangerously high.
‘High levels of NO2 can irritate and inflame the lining of the airways, causing a flare-up of asthma or COPD and symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing.’
‘NO2 mostly comes from road transport, and the best way to reduce levels is to roll out Clean Air Zones. We need central and local governments to take bold action and do the right thing to protect people’s health.’
View the map here.