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UK air pollution at unsafe levels, latest WHO data finds

Fine particle air pollution in the UK is exceeding recommended limits in around half of towns and cities in the UK covered by measurements, leading to increased calls for air quality action.


A total of 31 towns or cities in the UK are at or above WHO limits for PM2.5 particulates.

Latest research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that a total of 31 towns and cities of around 68 are either at or above the WHO’s recommended limit value for the most dangerous toxic particles known as PM2.5.

Caused by things such as tyre and brake wear as well as non-transport areas including construction and wood burning, this particulate matter is smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) of 10 micrograms per cubic metre (annual mean) and is widely acknowledged to have the greatest impact on health – it’s known to result in 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

Although the areas measured under the WHO report are within the EU annual limit value of 25 micrograms per cubic metre for PM2.5, the WHO’s limits are said to represent a safer threshold.

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

“A new Clean Air Act would protect our right to breathe clean air and drive greater ambition to meet safer WHO guideline levels. Ministers should commit to this now. Without it, many people across the UK will continue to pay with their health.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.