In 2017, the worst location for nitrogen dioxide pollution was Kensington and Chelsea, followed by Leeds and Doncaster.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of the most harmful pollutant gases, irritating the lungs and potentially causing breathing difficulties. Road traffic is a leading source.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said high levels of particulate matter in the air were also recorded in the past few days in the East and West Midlands. Other regions were also expected to experience localised pollution in hotspots, carrying on at least into Wednesday.
The new map of nitrogen dioxide pollution limit breaches for recent years shows that Earl’s Court station in London was worst overall, with a recording of 129.5 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the 40μg/m3 limit set out in the government’s air quality objectives.
Simon Bowens, a clean air campaigner at FoE, said: “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air. The government needs to step up and do more to help deal with this air pollution crisis. They can’t just carry on leaving the difficult decisions with local authorities, many of which are severely under-resourced.”
He said the map showed that air pollution was not just a problem for big cities. “Unacceptably toxic air can be found across much of the UK, even in smaller towns,” he said. “It is harming the health of people across the country and is especially bad for young children whose lungs are still developing.”
Air pollution is known to shorten lives and reduce the quality of life for tens of thousands of people, and in recent studies it has also been linked to health problems from dementia to heart disease and miscarriage. Children are most at risk: exposure to air pollution when young can have lifelong effects as it can stunt the lungs and affect intelligence.
The data used for the map was taken from the most recent annual air quality status reports that have been submitted to government, most of them from last year, with the results adjusted for distance and other factors.