People in Sheffield and Chesterfield are being exposed to unsafe levels of potentially deadly air pollution, a new report claims.
They are among nine urban areas in the UK named by the World Health Organisation for breaching safe levels of air quality – but Chesterfield Council said today its most recent pollution readings are below WHO targets.
WHO sets safe levels of air quality based on the concentration of polluting particles called particulate matter in the atmosphere.
Its study comes after Public Health England warned air pollution could be killing up to 1,400 people a year in South Yorkshire. Air pollution is associated with deaths from heart disease and stroke, as well as respiratory illnesses and cancers.
Jack Scott, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment, said the authority was tackling the issue through its Air Quality Action Plan.
The plan, which was published last year, said poor air quality is causing an estimated 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield, with annual health costs of around £160 million.
Coun Scott said a public information campaign will start in the autumn to encourage people to change behaviour and use cars less in a bid to reduce air pollution.
He said: “500 people a year are dying in Sheffield and we need to take decisive action to improve that.
“If people can use bikes or just one journey out of 10 walk instead of using the car, that would have a massive impact.”
Chesterfield Council said its readings for 2013 were below WHO levels and more than half the UK legal limit.
A spokesman said: “Air pollution levels in Chesterfield are below the legal UK requirements.
“In the past three years we have data for, which includes the 2011 figures that WHO is quoting, four of the six readings have been below the target.
“All have been around half the UK legal limit or better and last year both readings were below the WHO targets.”