NEWS: Particulate limits exceeded in over 40 UK cities

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More than 80 per cent of people living in cities across the world that monitor air pollution are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution, according to latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the UK, over 40 towns and cities matched or exceeded air pollution limits, based on fine particle emissions, known as PM2.5 and PM10, which research has shown can enter deeply into people’s respiratory systems, leading to health problems.

Cities and towns including London, Port Talbot, Carlisle, Leeds, Leicester, Leamington Spa, Stoke-on-Trent and York all exceeded the WHO limits for particulate matter, according to its updated air quality database.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “These new statistics show a worrying level of dangerous air pollution across the country. People shouldn’t have to breathe air on a daily basis which the WHO deems unhealthy.”

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said the government should take immediate action to tackle the ‘urgent public health crisis’: “We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and heart health with almost six in ten global deaths (58 per cent) 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,” he said.

Port Talbot, Wales, exceeded the WHO safety limit for particulate matter (10 micrograms per cubic metre) at 18 micrograms, making it the most polluted city in the UK. Photograh: Kevin-Corcoran

The data, published in May 2018 from WHO’s outdoor air quality database, measures average yearly levels of urban air quality data for PM10 and PM2.5.

Covering over 4,000 cities in 108 countries for the years from 2010 to 2016, WHO says the database has nearly doubled in two years as more cities are measuring air pollution levels and recognising the associated health impacts.

“Many of the world’s megacities exceed WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than five times, representing a major risk to people’s health,” commented Dr Maria Neira, director of the department of public health at WHO.

“We are seeing an acceleration of political interest in this global public health challenge,” she said.

Air pollution is responsible for around 40,000 deaths each year in the UK with an economic cost of around £20 billion a year, according to the Royal College of Physicians.

Visit the WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database at:


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