More than 40 towns and cities in the UK are at or have exceeded air pollution limits set by the World Health Organization.
The figures on air pollution are contained in the WHO's report, which estimates that globally nine out of ten people breathe air containing dangerous levels of pollutants. WHO estimates that 30 ctities and towns in the UK have fine-particle air pollution levels above 10 micrograms per cubic metre, with another 17 at that limit. Areas that exceed these levels included London, Manchester, Swansea and Plymouth!
Most of these figures were collected between 2013 and 2015 and in some places estimates of fine-particle air pollution were made based on measurements of larger particles of pollution. Fine-particle air pollution is particularly bad for humans, penetrating deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections, the WHO says. It also estimates that, globally, seven million people die each year from exposure to such pollution.
Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, believes the Plymouth incinerator and waste management in the city are exacerbating the city’s high pollution rating. She said:
“The incinerator plume which spreads its noxious tentacles over the city is certainly not helping. Neither will plans to move lorry loads of bottom ash from the incinerator across the city to a new processing plant. Diesel fumes are the main source of fine particle pollution in our cities.”
A spokesman for the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: "While air quality in the UK has improved significantly since 2010, this report from the WHO clearly shows the impact air pollution is having on the health of men, women and children in the UK and across the world.
"Tackling this important issue is a priority for this government which is why we have a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions and will set out further actions through a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy later this year."
The list of 30 UK places that exceeded the limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre:
Scunthorpe: 15 (estimate)
Gillingham: 13 (estimate)
Carlisle: 12 (estimate)
Chepstow: 12 (estimate)
Grays: 12 (estimate)
Eccles: 12 (estimate)
Nottingham: 12 (estimate)
Plymouth: 12 (estimate)
Royal Leamington Spa: 12
Sheffield: 12 (estimate)
Hull: 11 (estimate)
Londonderry: 11 (estimate)
Norwich: 11 (estimate)