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Air pollution killing hundreds in Bristol each year

Air pollution is killing nearly 200 people a year in Bristol Credit: ITV West Country

Air pollution is killing nearly 200 people a year in Bristol - that's according to new government data. The city's air quality is illegally low - and European politicians say tougher laws are needed.

Breathing in polluted air is a fact of life for city dwellers - and particularly for Bristolians.

Government figures show that levels of nitrogen dioxide in 2013 were

35%
higher than the legal limit

and aren't expected to become legal until 2020.

Campaigners have told us that one form of transport in particular is causing more than its fair share of harm, and you've probably guessed where most of that pollution's coming from.

"Diesel vehicles are actually responsible for greater amounts of pollution and also most importantly nitrogen dioxide as well.

So whilst I wouldn't say that people should switch over to petrol - because I would much prefer to see people switching over to sustainable forms of transport - diesel vehicles do need to be addressed."

– Andrea Lee, Healthy Air Campaigner, ClientEarth charity

So what do Bristolians make of the situation? They are the people who live with it, day in, and day out.

In a statement Bristol City Council told us:

"We need to adopt a systematic approach to encourage greater use of public transport, walking and cycling, and convert to low and zero emission vehicles. In Bristol we are making good progress - last year we saw a 17% rise in bus passengers, along with 18 million bike trips through the city."

– Bristol City Council

The irony is that Bristol is European Green Capital - and just last year it was hosting an international summit on how to improve air quality.

But there's more to all this than political embarrassment. What's around Bristolians in the air now is an invisible killer - and that isn't an exaggeration.

Government figures show that:

5.8%
of adult deaths in Bristol are down to long-term exposure to air pollution, resulting in
196
deaths every year.

That's a higher rate than the English and South West average.

Air pollution can trigger heart and lung conditions, and can make asthma worse.

South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling was in town today to measure Bristol's illegal air for herself. There are plans afoot to introduce tougher air pollution controls across Europe, designed to make it harder for governments to ignore them. Ironically, it seems the VW emissions scandal might have actually helped matters:

It's clear that air pollution kills tens of thousands of people every year in the UK - so there really isn't any time to lose.