Air pollution caused the premature deaths of an estimated 698 people across South Yorkshire in a year, according to statistics highlighted today.
The figures for Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley were revealed by charity Brake as it called on people to ‘drive less and live more’ in a new campaign for the launch of Road Safety Week .
Sheffield had the highest number of estimated deaths in 2010 – 269 people aged over 25, while Doncaster had 160 people, Rotherham 145 and Barnsley 124.
A Brake spokesman said: “The figures for premature deaths as a result of air pollution come as a shock to us.
“If anything we believe these figures are under reported, which is why we call on Government to increase their investment in alternative fuel sources for vehicles.”
Earlier this year analysis before Sheffield Council’s health and wellbeing board said there was a ‘strong correlation’ between hospital admissions for circulatory and heart diseases and average levels of pollution.
Road transport is the largest contributor to Sheffield’s nitrogen dioxide emissions, the city is missing its EU air quality targets and is not likely to be below the legal limit until 2020.
The council’s own action plan said poor air quality causes an estimated 500 premature deaths a year.
It is also now running an Air Aware campaign, which the council said had increased the number of people describing themselves as aware of air pollution by 27 per cent.
An electric vehicle project has supported firms to switch cars and installed rapid vehicle charging points while a feasibility study into a scheme to increase the number of low emission taxis is underway.
Sheffield is also in the running to become one of the UK’s first ‘Go Ultra Low’ cities, which are leaders in electric vehicle uptake.
If the city is successful in its bid for funding, more than 50 new charging points will be installed and 300 vehicles purchased for use by the council. car clubs and others.
A council spokesman said: “The number of deaths in Sheffield due to poor air quality is too high but we are not complacent and are actively working with partners to drive down pollution levels.
“We know there is more to be done, but are already taking this issue very seriously and hope thatby working with the public, businesses and partners together we can drive down air pollution.”
Barnsley Council said several areas were subject to an air quality action plan with measures like building bypasses to move traffic away from housing or creating bus corridors used.
Coun Roy Miller, cabinet member for place, said: “These locations are constantly monitored by regulatory services who report progress annually to Defra.
“We are pleased the number of air quality management areas in Barnsley is reducing each year.
“The council is working hard to lower emissions with the aim of improving air quality and health.”
Other Barnsley projects include encouraging staff to choose sustainable travel and running council vehicles as efficiently as possible.
In Doncaster, tackling emissions is a consideration for new planning applications and the council has invested in new efficient street sweeping vehicles.
Assistant director of environment Gill Gillies, said: “As is the case in many areas of the UK we know that there are parts of Doncaster, typically near busy roads, which have poor air quality.
“We have developed detailed air quality action plans for these areas and take a range of measures to reduce pollution in the borough.
“We also have the highest percentage of residents who cycle to work in South Yorkshire, emphasising that local people are becoming increasingly passionate about protecting the environment.”