Three cities and two towns in Wales have found to be over the World Health Organisations limits for air pollution
A Welsh town has been named the most polluted in the UK.
Port Talbot has more air pollution than the UK’s biggest cities, new data has shown.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that the South Wales town, which is home to Britain’s largest steelworks, has an average of 18 micrograms of fine particle air pollution per cubic metre.
This compares to only 14 micrograms in London, 10 micrograms in Birmingham and 12 in Liverpool.
The findings come as three Welsh cities and one other town were also shown to be over the WHO limit for fine particle air pollution.
Cardiff , Chepstow, Newport , and Swansea have all been found to reach the maximum level, with concerns raised over its effect on public health.
Calls have now been made for the Government to take action after 32 towns and cities across the UK were classed to be over the limit.
Both Cardiff and Newport were found to have 10 micrograms of air pollution per cubic metre – the maximum guideline set by the global organisation.
Swansea has 13 micrograms per metre and Chepstow 12 – the same level as cities nearly 40 times its size.
In October, Wrexham was also found to be over the limit for air pollution in a separate study of the towns with the most toxic air.
The data also follows after residents of one of Wales’ most polluted roads in Crumlin, Caerphilly, spoke of the reality of living on a road blighted by heavy traffic.
Earlier this year talks were held by Cardiff council to discuss ideas to clean up the city’s air quality.
Proposals include London-style Low Emission Zones with charges for drivers to enter certain areas and plans to stop high-emission buses from entering Westgate Street.
In Port Talbot proposals have been made to extend the 50mph speed restriction on the M4 in a bid to cut nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.
The restriction currently applies to a stretch of motorway, between where it passes over Taibach and junction 41, adjacent to Neath Port Talbot Hospital, which is around 3km.
But under the new temporary measure, which is set to be introduced within the next two months, the restriction will be extended west to junction 42, the main Swansea turn-off.
In total it is thought 40,000 people are being killed by toxic fumes every year in the UK.
Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, said: “This report reconfirms that air pollution is one of the leading environmental public health crises in the UK today.
“Action to reduce the toxic particles in the air we breathe can no longer be delayed.
In response to the data, campaigners said “quaint” and “fresh aired places” have been exposed to “dangerous” pollution levels.
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: “As more air quality data becomes available, we are uncovering a deeply concerning number of seemingly quaint, fresh aired places across the UK with dangerously polluted air. This demonstrates the need for further research, for us to properly understand and improve the state of air pollution across the UK.
“There is no such thing as a safe level of air pollution, though years of government complacency suggests they think otherwise.
“We need to see measures including a stronger national network of clean air zones, a diesel scrappage scheme and investment in walking, cycling and public transport to enable as many car-free journeys as possible.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Improving air quality is one of our priorities. Average air pollution levels in Wales have continued to improve, but we recognise hotspots remain close to busy roads and major industrial sites.
“The Minister for Environment announced a package of measures last week which will support compliance with air quality limits, helping improve public health and our natural environment.”
Neath Port Talbot council’s chief executive, Steven Phillips, disputed the figures provided by WHO.
He said: “Neath Port Talbot Council recognises air quality issues locally and has a longstanding strategy and programme to address it.
“We are involved in a research programme with three universities led by Cardiff and Swansea universities in environmental monitoring work as well as working closely with the manufacturing sector and other partners to make improvements. The Welsh Government is also playing its part with the recent proposal to extend the 50 mph limit on the M4.
“However both the Air Quality in Wales website, which is fed via data from local monitoring stations, and the WHO figures themselves contradict the figure of 18 as an annual average for PM 2.5 which has been widely reported in the media. We are therefore trying to establish where this figure originated and how it came to be used.”
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