28 April 2022
Data released today (28 April) by Defra shows that annual air pollution remained at levels dangerous to public health in 2021. The data shows Nitrogen Dioxide air pollution across 2021 was slightly higher than when traffic and travel was reduced by Covid-19 in 2020, while particulate matter and ozone pollution remained at levels that pose significant risks to public health (despite slight decreases in recent years).
The UK is still a long way away from having levels of particle pollution that are within recognised health standards of 10μg/m3 as an annual average– a level the UK Government does not aim to meet until 2040, with the UK average for 2021 coming in at 12.9μg/m3. This level will be significantly higher for people living close to busy roads.
Wildlife and Countryside Link is disappointed to see proposals that would allow particulate matter pollution to remain at unhealthy levels. This is the most harmful type of air pollution, that can worsen heart and lung disease, and even cause premature death.
Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Despite a slight decrease from previous levels, millions of people will continue to breathe unhealthy air , with pollution particularly bad in more disadvantaged areas that are often nearer major roads. Current Government proposals to clean up our air are too slow and fall short of recognised health standards, despite strong evidence that healthy air standards can be met by 2030.
“Air pollution is also bad news for nature. Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide boost levels of nitrogen in the air, which can be particularly harmful for sensitive habitats and species, such as wildflowers.
“The Environment Act targets are a real opportunity for change. Alongside setting targets to restore nature, ministers should show real ambition on air quality. This means bringing forward the target deadline for particulate matter. To protect people from this deadly pollution, PM2.5 air pollution should be lower than 10μg/m3 by 2030.” 
Wildlife and Countryside Link is calling for the below targets to be set in law by the Environment Act. Read full briefing here.
Notes to Editors:
Latest Press Releases