Research by the Royal College of Physicians has found that the air in 44 out of 51 British towns and cities have failed WHO pollution tests.
Testing for fine particles smaller than 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5s, they have been linked to heart disease and premature death, and according to WHO, should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
The top ten most polluted cities are as follows:
- Glasgow – 16
- Scunthorpe – 16
- Eastbourne – 15
- Leeds – 15
- London – 15
- Salford – 15
- Southampton – 15
- Armagh – 14
- Birmingham – 14
- Cardiff – 14
The report also found that polluted air costs 40,000 premature deaths per year and over six million sick days.
As well as featuring some of the largest cities in the country, smaller places such as Eastbourne, Oxford, and Leamington Spa were also found to be in breach of pollution levels.
Dr Toby Hillman from the Royal College of Physicians said:
There isn’t a safe limit for the amount of pollution that’s been defined as yet and we know the effects of poor air quality run from cradle to grave; it’s a lifetime threat to human health.
“This is a really direct and tangible impact on UK health from the drivers of climate change, and taking action on air quality should be a priority.”
On the research, the RCP’s special adviser on air quality, Professor Stephen Holgate, said:
The UK is leading the way internationally on many areas of climate and health – with the recent T-charge a good example. Yet it continues to miss the glaring opportunities that can be implemented today with highly substantial benefit.
“As the RCP and Lancet Countdown research shows, climate change is here and a health issue today. More can and should be done. The benefits for an overstretched health service alone are justification, but it is clear that the benefits of action will be felt much more widely, both economically and for those most affected by air pollution.”
The report also found the that social cost of the pollution costs around £22.6 billion per year.