AIR pollution is linked to thousands of deaths a year in Barnsley, researchers claim.
According to a report by the charity Centre for Cities, around 9,300 deaths – four in every 100 – can be linked to long-term exposure to airbourne pollutants.
In 2017, the most recent year for which information is available, 94 deaths could be directly attributed to exposure to fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5 – almost invisible matter, both man-made or naturally forming, that can penetrate deep in people’s lungs and particularly affects those with pre-existing breathing conditions.
Examples of this are dust and soot, and particles of brake pads which are dispersed when a car’s brakes are applied.
Deaths directly linked to PM2.5 in Barnsley are on a similar level to Luton (93) and Northampton (97), both similarly-sized towns – but some way off London where 3,799 were caused by exposure to PM2.5.
With regards to long-term exposure, areas in the south are more affected – with London, Slough, Chatham and Luton all above a six per cent rate of deaths.
Deaths attributed to long-term PM2.5 exposure in Barnsley occur at a rate of 3.8 per cent, while Leeds is around 4.5, Doncaster is 4.2 and Sheffield 3.9.
Most of the PM2.5 production in Barnsley is caused by industrial burning – around half – and then domestic or commercial combustion, such as people burning wood or coal fires.
Roughly ten per cent is caused by road transport.
Another major pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), is predominantly caused by road transport – this makes up 60 per cent of the NO2 recorded in Barnsley.
However, the town – one of more than 260 to declare a ‘climate emergency’ – has no roads that breach legal limits, in contrast with Sheffield, Doncaster, Huddersfield, Wakefield and particularly Leeds.
And pollution levels measured in Barnsley could be caused by these areas, claimed Coun Jim Andrews, cabinet spokesman for public health.
He said: “Since declaring a climate emergency, we’re committed to improving air quality and health across the borough.
“Air pollution can come from a number of sources, including ones outside of Barnsley. However, we will continue to monitor these levels and feed them into central government data so that we can collectively work towards reducing pollutant levels and achieving zero carbon emissions.”
In 2018, Centre for Cities noted 19 days on which the Daily Air Quality Index – a measure of air pollution levels and the associated health risks – was above safe levels in Barnsley.
This is the same as Doncaster and Huddersfield, and lower than Sheffield (22) and Leeds (23) – with the highest readings reported in Bournemouth, London and Southampton.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action. People in Yorkshire should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including banning wood burning stoves.
“To help the government needs to provide Yorkshire’s councils with extra money and introduce stricter guidelines. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths.”
Air pollution, states the report, is responsible for around 40,000 deaths a year nationally – as well as 20,000 hospital stays and more than six million sick days.