Sat Apr 22, 2017 06:36PM
This file photo taken on February 17, 2017 shows traffic queuing in central London on February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
This file photo taken on February 17, 2017 shows traffic queuing in central London on February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Sixty percent of Britain’s population lives in areas where air pollution levels are life-threatening.

According to a study published in The Guardian, 59% of Britons are living in towns and cities where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution breaches the lawful level of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

The study commissioned by the UK Labor party reveals nearly 40 million people in the UK are living in areas where illegal levels of air pollution from diesel vehicles risk damaging their health.

The British political party described the air pollution crisis as a “national scandal”.

This file photo taken on September 28, 2016 shows smoke rising from a smokestack at the British Steel Scunthorpe plant in north Lincolnshire, north east England. (Photo by AFP)

“Labor will not allow the Tories … to kick this issue into the long grass or water down standards that would put millions of UK adults and children at risk,” said Sue Hayman, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

James Thornton, the CEO of legal NGO ClientEarth, said the Labor data showed air pollution was a national problem which required a national solution.

He said to tackle air pollution in Britain, the British government needed to devise new plans that “must include a national network of clean air zones to keep the dirtiest diesel vehicles out of pollution hotspots, if we are to stand any chance of dealing with this public health crisis.”

“This is not a political issue but a public health issue. Whichever party is in power, the British public need to see an air quality plan which relies on good scientific evidence and which ensures that people no longer have to breathe toxic air and suffer the grave consequences to their health as a result,” Thornton said.

ClientEarth has in the past challenged the government in court over its air quality plans.

The NGO has devised guidelines for tackling air pollution which include:

1. The need for robust modelling and roadside, not lab-based, emissions testing.
2. Proper funding to make sure cities and towns can delivery the necessary changes.
3. Mandated clean air zones in every town and city with illegal levels of air pollution.
4. A diesel scrappage scheme or other form of compensation for drivers who bought their cars in good faith as successive governments favored diesel over other fuels.

Prior to this, The Guardian revealed that tens of thousands of children in schools and nurseries across England and Wales were being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles.