Friends of the Earth says “failing to fix air pollution costs lives” and urges even more investment in cycling and walking.
More than 1,300 sites across England are breaching nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air quality targets, according to Friends of the Earth.
NO2 has been linked with an increased risk of respiratory and lung problems and can also cause significant problems for people with asthma. It is mostly emitted by road vehicles.
Friends of the Earth, which examined local authority data, said the number of places exceeding the target was “shocking” – with the emissions also contributing to climate change.
The worst place for NO2 is not in a city, but a section of the A35 that passes through the village of Chideock in West Dorset.
It recorded an average annual of 97.7 ug/m3, more than double the government’s Annual Air Quality Objective of 40.
The full list compiled by the group is as follows:
1. Chideock Hill, West Dorset – 97.7
2. Station Taxi Rank, Sheffield – 91.7
3. North Street Clock Tower, Brighton – 90.8
4. Neville Street Tunnel, Leeds – 88
5. Strand, City of Westminster – 88
6. Walbrook Wharf, City of London – 87
7. Hickleton opp Fir Tree Close, Doncaster – 86
8. Marylebone Road, City of Westminster – 85
9. Euston Road, London Borough of Camden – 82.3
10. Hickleton, John O’Gaunts, Doncaster – 82
Traffic emissions are the main air pollution threat, but industrial and domestic producers also add to the problem.
Vehicles emit a wide range of pollutants in addition to NO2, mainly carbon monoxide but also particulate matter.
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Friends of the Earth said there had been a slight improvement on its last annual audit, when 1,591 locations were breaching N02 objectives, but insisted “failing to fix air pollution costs lives”.
“The government must also end its damaging fixation on building more roads,” said the group’s Simon Bowens.
“You can’t justify this by planning to phase out polluting petrol and diesel vehicles and replace them with electric ones. We need to go much further than just getting out of one type of car and into another.
“Investment in better cycling and walking should be part of a fair and green post-coronavirus economic recovery plan aimed at creating a cleaner, fairer future.”
The group produced its list of pollution hotspots using the most recent Air Quality Annual Status Reports (ASRs) submitted to government.
The reports are compiled using the previous year’s data, meaning in most cases the most up to date data was collected in 2018.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told Sky News the government had already committed to spend nearly £4bn to help improve air quality and boost cleaner transport.
A spokesperson said: “Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 – emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 33% and are at their lowest level since records began.
“But we know there is more to do, which is why are taking urgent action to curb the impact air pollution has on communities across England through the delivery of our £3.8bn plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 pollution.
“This includes providing £880m in funding and expert support to local authorities to improve air quality, and to introduce Clean Air Zones to further clean up the air we breathe.”