In Depth

Do you live in one of the UK’s most polluted towns?

Manchester, Swansea, Leeds and Liverpool among cities breathing unsafe air, according to WHO report

Residents of 32 UK towns and cities are breathing air which exceeds the World Health Organisation’s air pollutions safety limits, according to a new report.

The organisation measures air quality according to the proportion of fine particle emissions found in the air.

The particles, generated by activities like manufacturing, transport and burning wood, “are linked to diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and disease, and respiratory infections” says the London Evening Standard.

WHO compared data from more than 4,300 towns and cities in 108 countries to compile what it believes is “the world's most comprehensive database on ambient air pollution”, CNN reports.

A total of 32 UK towns and cities tested exceeded the safe emissions limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

Despite London’s well-publicised pollution problem, the traffic-choked capital only came in at joint-24th in the ranking.

Instead, the dubious honour of first place went to Port Talbot. Air in the Welsh steel town was found to contain 18 micrograms of emissions per cubic metre in 2015, the latest available figures.

Two more former manufacturing hubs, Scunthorpe and Salford, came in joint second, followed by Thurrock, Essex and Gibraltar, both with 14mg per cubic metre.

Here are the 32 UK towns and cities with unsafe levels of air pollution in 2015:

  • Port Talbot: 18 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Scunthorpe: 15
  • Salford: 15
  • Gibraltar: 14
  • Thurrock: 14
  • Manchester: 13
  • Swansea: 13
  • Gillingham: 13
  • Carlisle: 12
  • Chepstow: 12
  • Leeds: 12
  • Leicester: 12
  • Liverpool: 12
  • Grays: 12
  • Eccles: 12
  • Nottingham: 12
  • Plymouth: 12
  • York: 12
  • Prestonpans: 12
  • Royal Leamington Spa: 12
  • Sandy: 12
  • Sheffield: 12
  • Stoke-On-Trent: 12
  • London:11
  • Coventry: 11
  • Hull: 11
  • Londonderry: 11
  • Middlesbrough: 11
  • Norwich: 11
  • Southend-On-Sea: 11
  • Stockton-On-Tees: 11
  • Storrington: 11
  • Wigan: 11

The UK figures pale in comparison to the world’s most polluted cities, most of them in the developing world.

Muzaffarpur in India recorded a figure of 197 micrograms of fine particle emissions per cubic metre in 2015, although this figure is under revision. Pasakha in Bhutan took second place with 150, followed by Delhi and Cairo.

WHO found that “98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines”, compared to 56% in high-income nations.

In a statement, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalised people bear the brunt of the burden”.

Recommended

Religious tolerance, trans treatment and police misogyny
The star of David
Podcast

Religious tolerance, trans treatment and police misogyny

How London became the city of choice for Russian ‘dirty money’
The City of London skyline
Why we’re talking about . . .

How London became the city of choice for Russian ‘dirty money’

What is a ‘trigger warning’ and why are they controversial?
J.K. Rowling reading from Harry Potter
Getting to grips with . . .

What is a ‘trigger warning’ and why are they controversial?

The possible outcomes of the Sue Gray report
Boris Johnson during a visit to a factory in Anglesey, North Wales
Behind the scenes

The possible outcomes of the Sue Gray report

Popular articles

Are we heading for a snap general election?
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Today’s big question

Are we heading for a snap general election?

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern adjusts her face mask following a press conference
In Depth

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?

The Week Footer Banner