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More than one in 23 deaths in Welsh cities linked to air pollution

Report says proportion of such deaths is highest in Cardiff and lowest in Swansea

More than one in 23 deaths in Wales’ large cities are now linked to air pollution, and death from air pollution is 21 times more frequent than deaths from traffic accidents

The stark statistics come from the Centre for Cities’ annual study of the UK’s major urban areas.

The proportion of air pollution-related deaths highest in Cardiff, and lowest in Swansea, including Neath Port Talbot.

There are an estimated 401 air pollution-related deaths in Wales’ cities in just one year, and the report calls for Councils to be given more money and power to reduce air pollution.

Its authors say the  proportion of deaths related to the toxin PM2.5 are highest in Cardiff, with the latest data linking it to 131 deaths in just one year, or 4.7% of all adult deaths in the city.

Swansea (including Neath Port Talbot) has the smallest proportion of deaths related to PM2.5 Wales. There, PM2.5 caused 158 deaths – or 3.7% of all adult deaths in the city. However, Swansea is the biggest per-head emitter of PM2.5 in the UK due to the presence of heavy industry in the city.

These levels of PM2.5 are currently legal in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, despite breaking the World Health Organization’s air pollution guidelines.

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said:

“More than half of people in the UK live in cities and large towns. And while they offer people good employment and lifestyle opportunities Cities Outlook 2020 shows that they also having a damaging effect on their health, with air pollution killing thousands of people living in cities every year.

“Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action. People in Wales should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.

“To help the Government needs to provide Welsh councils with extra money and introduce stricter guidelines. The deadly levels of polluted air in Wales are entirely legal. This needs to change. As a matter of urgency the Government should adopt WHO’s stricter guidelines around PM2.5 emissions. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths in Wales.”

Transport is a significant, but not sole contributor to air pollution; burning fuels is also a major cause.

For example, half of PM2.5 toxins generated in cities and large towns come from sources such as wood burning stoves and coal fires.

Not all of it is locally generated – some in the south of England is blown in from continental Europe.

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