Revealed: 10 worst air pollution hotspots

4th July 2017

Citizen Science investigation reveals air pollution in every region of the UK

With the government due back in court regarding its inadequate plan for tackling air pollution tomorrow (Wed 5 July), Friends of the Earth reveals the ten worst air pollution hotspots uncovered by citizen scientists up and down the country.

The 10 worst results – results with the highest average Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels – were found in the following council areas:

  1. Basingstoke and Deane – 145 micrograms per cubic metre (µgm³)
  2. Lambeth – 134
  3. Hammersmith and Fulham -116
  4. Camden -110
  5. Brighton and Hove – 98
  6. Southwark – 97
  7. Bristol – 97
  8. Wigan – 97
  9. Hackney – 95
  10. Brent – 94

Overall, air pollution hotspots were found in 133 local authorities – 26 more than the government has identified in its draft Air Quality Plan.

Friends of the Earth’s ground-breaking citizen science air pollution experiment involved thousands of people across the UK testing the levels of the toxic gas Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) where they live. We classed ‘high’ NO2 levels as results averaging 40 μgm3 or higher for the period the monitoring equipment was in place, which if they were recorded across a whole year, would be higher than the World Health Organisation guidelines – and above the level at which EU legal limits are set.

The results suggest that air pollution is a problem in more places than the government has outlined in its draft Air Quality Plan; including 13 neglected areas which are not currently identified as having a pollution problem by either their local authority or the national government.

With the government’s final Air Quality Plan due this month, the environmental charity is calling on the government to urgently fund and mandate Clean Air Zones – areas in which the most polluting vehicles are charged to enter – in all the locations predicted to have illegal levels of air pollution beyond next year. Friends of the Earth is also calling for Theresa May to provide a safety net for drivers by introducing a comprehensive diesel scrappage scheme funded by a ‘diesel-gate levy’ on manufacturers.

 Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said:

“Our citizen scientists found air pollution hotspots in every region of the UK – including some disturbingly high results. The breadth of locations affected by dirty air reinforces the need for a government plan that will deliver clean air everywhere.

“Lives are being cut short because of the air we’re breathing, and not just in big cities. This experiment shows that people everywhere are right to be concerned about air pollution and its devastating health effects.

“The government has acknowledged that Clean Air Zones are the best way to deal with this public health crisis. With the government back in court again this week over its woeful proposals, its time they stop playing politics with our health and urgently introduce Clean Air Zones where air is set to remain illegal dirty.”


Notes to editor:

  1. The 13 local authorities with high concentrations of NO2 – which are not currently identified as having a pollution problem by their local authority, or the national government – are: Braintree, Castle Point, Darlington, Derbyshire Dales, Eastbourne, Gwynedd, High Peak, Mendip, Oadby and Wigston, Stevenage, Stroud, Swindon and the Vale of Glamorgan.
  2. You can order a Clean Air Kit and measure the pollution where you are by visiting:

For press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust