Yorkshire and the North East’s air pollution epidemic: nearly 300 locations breaching limits

Data revealed by Friends of the Earth demonstrates the scale of air pollution across Yorkshire and the North East.
  Published:  24 Jul 2018    |      2 minute read

Using air quality data submitted by local authorities Friends of the Earth’s investigation found that 293 locations across the region are breaching annual limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Neville Street Tunnel in Leeds recorded the worst breach. The limit set for Local Authorities is an annual average of 40ug/m3, but data showed that tunnel had an annual level of 99ug/m3.

Across Yorkshire and the North East, twenty-two local authorities have recorded air pollution readings above this limit, with seven of these (Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds) recording air pollution levels at least 50% higher than the limit.

  • Click here to view data breakdown of the local authorities breaching air pollution limits; by how much and at what number of locations
  • View full map showing all locations breaching annual NO2 limits by clicking here*

Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth campaigner for Yorkshire and the North East, said:

“Air pollution is a public health emergency that cuts thousands of lives short each year across Yorkshire and the North East, with children, older people and the poorest most at risk. Leeds City Council is currently consulting on a Clean Air Zone, but the current proposals fall short of what is needed.

“The Clean Air Zone proposals put forward by Leeds City Council completely ignore private cars despite them being a huge source of pollution in the city. The current plan also lets down the most disadvantaged areas of the city by excluding them from the Clean Air Zone. These are communities where emergency admissions for respiratory problems are fifty per cent higher than average.

“Local authorities across the region need to up their game and take the necessary action for the sake of our health and wellbeing. It’s also important however, that local authorities get proper support from central government, which has very much passed the buck when it comes to cleaning up our air.”

Local Leeds resident and former director of public health in Barnsley, Dr Paul Redgrave, said:

“Breathing traffic polluted air irritates our eyes, noses and throats and makes breathing harder for many people. Over time it significantly stunts the growth of children’s lungs.

“Road traffic is a leading cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution in many parts of Yorkshire and the North East. It causes flare-ups for people with asthma or other lung problems. It makes symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing worse.

“The health benefits of more ambitious action by local authorities to tackle air pollution would be enjoyed by everyone. We should go for congestion charging as well as a Clean Air Zone – we’d all be able to breathe easier, become more active and would lose fewer days off work due to sickness.”


  1. A Clean Air Zone would set minimum pollution standards for vehicles entering the city. Vehicles not meeting this standard would incur a charge when entering the city.
  2. All findings based on latest air quality data available from Local Authorities. In the majority of cases this data was submitted in 2018, but the below places are yet to release reports for 2018, so numbers are instead taken from 2017 reports:
    • Middlesbrough
    • Stockton-On-Tees
    • Newcastle
    • North Lincolnshire
    • Doncaster – latest report submitted in 2016
    • Rotherham
    • Sheffield
    • Hambleton
    • Scarborough
  3. 2018 Air Quality Status Reports are provisional until approved by the government
  4. * Locations marked:
    • yellow exceeded annual NO2 levels of 40ug/m3
    • orange exceeded annual NO2 levels of 50ug/m3
    • red exceeded annual NO2 levels of 60ug/m3
  5. See study by University of Leeds which concluded that air pollution increases the risk of childhood asthma
  6. See Leeds data on emergency admissions for respiratory problems here