Air pollution linked to 1 in 24 deaths in York

Traffic queuing on Bootham, York – one of the pollution hotspots. Photograph © Google Street View

Air pollution has played a role in one in 24 deaths in York.

Research by think tank Centre for Cities found 4.2% of deaths in York are related to tiny toxic particulates PM2.5 – which are released from transport, wood burning stoves and coal fires.

A councillor has called for action, saying the city has been “too slow to act on this silent killer”.

And Centre for Cities is urging councils to introduce charges for car and van drivers in city centres and ban woodburning stoves and coal fires.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of the organisation, said: “Failure to act now will lead to more deaths in Yorkshire.”

Higher than Sheffield

Cllr Danny Myers. Photograph: Cllr Myers / Twitter
The rate of deaths linked to air pollution in York is higher than larger cities Sheffield and Wakefield.

Cllr Danny Myers of York Labour group said the figures are “shocking”, adding:

  • York has been too slow to act on this silent killer.

    We should be looking to cleaner cities around the world to find ways to halt these premature deaths.

    We still have areas in our historic city in breach of the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

    Bootham and Fishergate are particular problem areas and our Liberal Democrat/Green Party-led council is doing nothing to alleviate it.

He said more must be done to improve public transport and reduce traffic.

Voluntary clean air zone

Cllr Paula Widdowson, Lib Dem executive member for climate change, said York is investing £1.6m it create the UK’s first voluntary clean air zone – due to launch later this month – without Government funding.

And she said the council is investing in initiatives to improve air quality including tree planting, an electric car charging network and electric waste vehicles.

She added:

  • Air pollution is a major concern for many people across the UK, with emissions from vehicles being linked to numerous health problems beyond asthma and lung disease.

    This is an issue the Government has failed to take seriously, having lost numerous court cases over the failure to set out clear plans to improve air quality.

21 times higher

It’s vehicle fumes that are the problem. Photograph © kuanish-sar on Pixabay
Centre for Cities said the number of deaths linked to exposure to air pollution is 21 times higher than the regional rate of deaths from traffic accidents.

And that Government should adopt stricter guidelines on levels of PM2.5 particulates – as the Scottish Government has already done, put £660m towards helping cities tackle air pollution, provide incentives to improve air quality and make plans with the EU to fight cross border air pollution.

Conservative councillor Paul Doughty said any avoidable death is “clearly a cause of concern” and tackling the problem is a priority for the council and Government.

He added: “Whilst we know this is a long term problem that will require societal change, not just in York but across the globe, there is some reassurance from the Public Health England data showing that deaths attributed to air pollution in York is on a general downward trajectory and has been for a number of years.”

Labour called for traffic to be banned from within the city walls by 2023 – a move that was backed by a majority of councillors last month.

The council also introduced a £20 fine for people who do not switch off their car engines while parked.