Air pollution data revealed today (01/05/18) shows that three Welsh cities and two Welsh towns are at or over World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) – with the expanded database uncovering new examples of dangerously polluted air across the UK.

Submitted by Kirsty Luff on May 02nd

Cardiff, Chepstow, Newport, Port Talbot and Swansea are all failing WHO standards for PM2.5 pollution.

Friends of the Earth is calling for the UK to adhere to WHO standards for air pollution.

While the expansion of the WHO’s air quality database shows an increasing awareness of the public health crisis that is air pollution, it also further highlights that much more needs to be done to clean up the air we breathe, and fast.

Air pollution from particulates can cause lung cancer,  and worsen heart and lung disease. Research has found there is no safe limit of exposure. The WHO air pollution database also only tells part of the story, as it does not include figures on the deadly nitrogen dioxide gas which is also polluting our air and harming our health.

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.

“For the health and wellbeing of everyone, we need the forthcoming Air Quality Strategy to take a decisive stance and address air pollution from all sources. 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.”


  1. The WHO’s Third urban/ambient air pollution database: http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/cities/en/
    1. The 49 towns and cities as referenced are those on the WHO database which are at or over the WHO Air Quality Guideline level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre There may be more locations not on their database not adhering to their standards for air pollution.
  2. Particulate matter (PM), including PM10 and PM2.5, are pieces of solids or liquids which are in found in the air we breathe. Many of them are hazardous to health. PM10 are larger sized particles than PM2.5. The smaller size of PM2.5 particles makes them especially dangerous as they can get deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. The WHO have classed them as cancer-causing in the same category as tobacco smoke.
  3. Friends of the Earth is calling for urgent government action to quickly and drastically improve air quality including:
    1. More Clean Air Zones than are currently being planned, which must come into effect as soon as possible in 2019. These must include all vehicle types. Effective Clean Air Zones will lead to fewer, and cleaner cars on our roads, safer streets, more welcoming neighbourhoods and, vitally, healthier lungs for our children.
    2. The UK must rapidly phase out high polluting diesel vehicles, with a government-led scrappage scheme to help people move away from the most polluting vehicles. Motor manufacturers who have contributed to the UK’s air pollution crisis should be made to cough up to help fund such a scheme.
    3. Investment in clean, affordable and reliable public transport.
    4. An improvement in infrastructure to support alternatives to driving, such as safe cycling and walking.
    5. Traffic generating schemes such as airport expansion and road building which would add to the air pollution problem must be scrapped
  4. About Friends of the Earth: For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For more information visit: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/ follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.
  5. The WHO air quality standard for PM2.5 is an annual average of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. The following UK towns and cities from the WHO database are at or over this level (PLEASE NOTE: the figures below have been taken directly from the WHO spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has rounded the numbers):


Friends of the Earth Cymru

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