Air Pollution Exceeds Safety Limits In Towns Across UK – Here Are The 20 Worst Hotspots

It's not just big cities that are affected.

In almost 2,000 locations across the UK nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution exceeds safety limits designed to protect health, according to an environmental charity.

High levels of NO2 can cause a flare up of asthma or symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing. A leading cause of NO2 pollution is emissions from road traffic.

With toxic air above limits affecting huge swathes of the UK, Friends of the Earth – which collected the data – is campaigning for Clean Air Zones to be rolled out in a great number of places than is currently planned, supported by measures such as improved infrastructure to support safe cycling and walking.

This would see fewer polluting vehicles on our roads and would ultimately improve public health, the charity said. Removing such vehicles would also contribute to reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change.

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The Air Quality Objective for nitrogen dioxide (the recommended limit) is 40ug/m3. The data suggests 1,758 locations across the UK exceed this limit.

The 10 UK locations outside London that most exceed the limit:

  1. Neville Street (NW Tunnel entrance), Leeds – 99

  2. Fir Tree Close, Hickleton, Doncaster – 96

  3. John O’Gaunts, Hickleton, Doncaster – 87

  4. Hennef Way, Banbury – 84.8

  5. Upper Stone Street, Maidstone – 79.3

  6. Market Hill, Maldon – 78.97

  7. North Street Clock Tower, Brighton – 77.9

  8. Platform 3A/2B, Sheffield – 77

  9. Neville Street (NE Tunnel entrance), Leeds – 76

  10. Holyhead Road, Coventry – 75.6

The 10 London locations that most exceed the limit:

  1. Earls Court Station, Kensington & Chelsea, London – 129.5

  2. Junction North Circular Rd / Chartley Avenue, Brent, London – 115.39

  3. IKEA, Hut, North Circular Road, Brent, London – 102.1

  4. Neville Street (NW Tunnel entrance), Leeds – 99

  5. Fir Tree Close, Hickleton, Doncaster – 96

  6. Kensington H St/Kensington Church St, Kensington & Chelsea, London – 94.5

  7. Euston Road, Camden, London – 92.45

  8. Strand, City of Westminster, London – 92

  9. High Street, Harlesden, Brent, London – 91.83

  10. Haddon Hall Tower Bridge Road, Southwark, London – 90.79

Simon Bowens, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, described the NO2 levels as “unforgivable”.

“Air pollution is often an issue thought of as affecting only the biggest cities. The reality is that unacceptably toxic air can be found across much of the UK, even in smaller towns. It is harming the health of people across the country and is especially bad for young children whose lungs are still developing,” he said.

“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.”

You can find out the air pollution in your area by accessing an interactive map here.