ONE in 22 deaths in Newport is linked to air pollution, research shows, prompting calls for more urgent government action to improve air quality in the UK's cities.

The research institute Centre for Cities found that the deaths of 113 people in Newport in 2017 were linked to long-term exposure to microscopic particulates (PM 2.5) in the air. This contributed 4.5 per cent of all deaths in Newport that year.

The centre found similar results in South Wales' other large cities, and said Welsh people are 21 times more likely to die from air pollution than from a traffic accident.

Their findings follow the British Heart Foundation's announcement last week of a new campaign to highlight the dangers of toxic particulates like PM 2.5. The charity warned that hundreds more people in Wales could die from pollution-linked heart attacks and strokes in the next decade.

Centre for Cities called on the UK Government to adopt stricter limits on PM 2.5 levels, but said councils could also help to improve air quality.

“Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution, but we need to see more action," institute boss Andrew Carter said.

"People in Wales should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air, and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves."


Centre for Cities called on councils in Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea to introduce ultra-low emission zones, which would charge the drivers of more-polluting vehicles to travel into city centres.

The institute also suggested banning wood-burning stoves and coal fires in areas where air pollution exceeded Welsh Government guidelines.

The Welsh and UK governments should give local authorities extra money, and stricter guidelines, to improve air quality, Mr Carter said. This could include financial incentives for cities to improve their air.

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said it has already started to tackle the city's air pollution through its sustainable travel plan and a number of other initiatives, including electric vehicles, electric charging points, electric buses, and planning guidance.

A current Welsh Government consultation on climate matters, she added, would also give councils more power to deal with other sources of air pollution, including wood-burning stoves.

But the council has no plans to introduce clean air zones in Newport. A public consultation on such a scheme did not indicate any clear support, council documents show.

On a national level, Mr Carter also said the UK government should make cross-border air pollution a priority in its future relationship with the European Union, and it should adopt the World Health Organisation's suggested controls on particulates.

"The deadly levels of polluted air in Wales are entirely legal," he said. "This needs to change. As a matter of urgency the government should adopt WHO’s stricter guidelines around PM2.5 emissions. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths."