The North West and Merseyside region has the fourth most toxic air in the UK, with regional cities breaching legal air quality limits by up to 150 per cent, says northern think tank.
The findings come from a new report compiled by think tank IPPR North.
According to the report, all but two of the 11 air quality zones in the North of England exceed legal air quality limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is mainly caused by traffic. Teeside and the North West are the worst offenders.
IPPR estimates that traffic congestion in the North will increase by 3 per cent annually, with the annual cost of congestion in Manchester and Liverpool alone already hitting £2 billion.
Businesses, councils, city mayors and government must be willing to take more radical action to tackle the problem, the report argues.
“The evidence shows toxic air is killing up to 40,000 children and adults a year. This is one of the biggest problems of our time, but too little attention is paid to this key issue, especially outside the capital”, said Darren Baxter, researcher at IPPR North.
“By taking the killer air crisis seriously, we can prevent many unnecessary deaths and ill-health, especially in our children, while preparing the way for a Northern green jobs revolution.”
Action on the horizon
The government is expected to publish a new Clean Air Strategy by the end of July 2017.
The strategy is expected to focus on setting up ‘Clean Air Zones’ in the worst urban areas, which could include charges on more polluting vehicles. Diesel vehicles are particularly in the spotlight.
In the meantime, businesses are being encouraged to take action themselves to reduce their impact on air pollution by supporting sustainable travel methods for staff and exploring the potential of low emission vehicles.