Air pollution levels in major UK cities have reached worryingly high levels and more should be done to combat ‘dangerous’ poor air quality, campaigners have warned.
London, Manchester, Leicester, Liverpool and Birmingham all had at least five days last year when air quality was potentially harmful to healthy people.
And Sheffield, Glasgow, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire all had at least one day when air pollution levels were rated 10 and reached the ‘very high’ category – the highest possible.
The findings come after it was revealed seven million people died globally from poor air exposure in 2012.
The latest figures from the Government’s Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, reveal Greater London as the worst area in the country for air pollution.
There were at least eight days last year when air quality levels in the capital were marked in the ‘high’ category, which is deemed unhealthy and could cause eye and throat irritation to anyone exposed.
There were six days in both Sheffield and the West Midlands when air quality levels were harmful and five days air pollution was deemed high in Greater Manchester, Leicester and Liverpool.
Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said ‘strong and urgent’ measures were needed to combat the growing air pollution problem.
She said: ‘Breathing clean air should be a basic human right – it’s a scandal that poor air quality kills millions of people around the world each year.
‘Tens of thousands of people die prematurely in the UK annually because of dangerous air pollution, which regularly breaches legal limits.
‘Strong and urgent measures are needed to end this scandal, including action on road traffic, the main cause of most of the UK’s pollution.’
In comparison, there were no dangerously high days of air pollution recorded in Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh or Portsmouth last year.
Elsewhere, Nottingham had four days last year where air pollution was deemed high, Swansea had two and Tyneside had one.
Caroline Russell, Green Party Local Transport spokesperson, said: ‘Primary traffic emissions are known to play a key role in air pollution incidents.
‘London authorities must get serious about making London a safer place for people to cycle and walk. Only then can we create a more liveable and less vehicle-dominated city.’
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation revealed new data which confirms air pollution as the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
Its report also said a stronger link had been established between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, World Health Organisation assistant director for general family, said: ‘Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly.’