Councils must work to improve the monitoring of urban air quality after research suggested some UK workers were being exposed to “dangerous” pollution levels, the GMB union has said.
Street cleaners and parking staff were among those most at risk, it said.
A study for GMB measured average levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air using data from 110 monitoring stations.
Air pollution can exacerbate health problems such as asthma and increase the likelihood of lung diseases.The study recorded unsafe levels of air pollution in several parts of London, as well as in Cambridge, Aberdeen, Bath, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Chepstow.
The union said councils should do more to identify the areas and times of day when the problem was worse and then inform local people.
It also said street cleaning and refuse collection routes should be changed to avoid times when air pollution was very high.’Immediate action’
The European Union sets out guidelines for nitrogen dioxide NO2 levels which state that they should not exceed 40ug/m3 micrograms per cubic metre on average over the course of a year.John McClean, national officer of the GMB, said the figures from the study confirmed “the urgent need for better air quality monitoring in urban and built-up areas”.”
Clean air should be a right, not a privilege,” he said.
He also stressed that road transport was a major problem, adding: “We reiterate our call for high-polluting vehicles to be banned from city centres, and for local authorities to take immediate action in priority areas such as near schools, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.”
In February, the European Commission launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to deal with air pollution, saying that levels of NO2 – mainly from diesel engines – were “excessive” in many British cities.
The Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs has previously said it is a “challenge” to meet air pollution targets near busy roads, but that air quality has “improved significantly” in recent decades.