POLLUTION levels in a leafy Sheffield suburb are the highest in the city - dwarfing even those in areas beside the M1, The Star can reveal.
Statistics compiled from air quality surveys around Sheffield show the amount of nitrogen dioxide - a toxic gas produced by vehicle exhausts - is almost 50 per cent higher in Broomhill than the level considered safe.
Under European law, presence of the gas is not supposed to exceed 40 microgrammes per cubic metre a year.
Figures obtained by The Star show Sheffield’s highest reading of 58mcg was recorded at the junction of Whitham Road and Crookes in Broomhill.
The highest reading in an area close to the traditional air pollution hotspot of the M1 was 10 per cent lower, on Derwent Crescent at Brinsworth.
The joint-second worst areas were Chesterfield Road, Meersbrook - a hotspot for jams - and Fitzalan Square, city centre, a spot often clogged with queuing buses. Sheffield Council is currently putting together an action plan to decide how poor air quality should be tackled.
The news comes as it emerged Sheffield could be among city councils around the UK forced to pay £300m of fines to the European Union for failing to meet air quality targets.
European law had dictated air quality needed to be brought down to what it deems “safe levels” by last December. The target was missed and a new date of 2015 is likely to be imposed - after which fines will be levied on failing areas.
Community groups in parts of Sheffield where pollution is high have held a meeting with Coun Andrew Sangar, cabinet member for climate change, urging him to take “tough action”.
They said the problem is causing up to 500 premature deaths a year, around 30,000 work days lost to sickness, and costing the NHS around £95m a year in Sheffield.
Neil Parry, of residents’ group Sheffield East End Quality of Life Initiative, said: “We wanted to get the message across it is not just areas like Tinsley which suffer.
“Although some action could be taken at a national level, such as reducing the speed limit on motorways in urban areas, and sending freight by rail, the council can take steps.
“The council could discourage car use, encourage bus companies to bring in cleaner vehicles, and set up zones where access by polluting vehicles is controlled.”
The groups urged Coun Sangar to ask all council departments to make action plans to help reduce pollution, and to ensure any new developments minimise car use.
Future industrial schemes could be sited close to railways to reduce the need for lorries, and new shops could be located at existing district centres rather than out-of-town developments which are hard to reach without a car, they said.
A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “In the main, breaches of air quality standards mainly occur on the corridors of arterial routes into the city.
“As far as current regulations stand, local authorities are not in line to be fined, it will be the Government. It is thought the amount could run into hundreds of millions of Euros.”
AIR POLLUTION HOTSPOTS 1) Junction of Whitham Road and Crookes, Broomhill - 58mcg
2) Chesterfield Road, Meersbrook, and Fitzalan Square, city centre - both 54mcg
3) Derwent Crescent next to M1 at Brinsworth - 53mcg
Other areas breaking the 40mcg European safe limit
University Square roundabout
Loxley New Road
Ecclesfield Road at Low Wincobank
Attercliffe Road and Barnsley Road in Fir Vale