Toxic pollutants in air around 97% of UK addresses, study finds

Ruth Fitzharris tells Science Editor Deborah Cohen that raising her asthmatic son amid high pollution levels makes her feel "trapped"

Some 97% of all homes and businesses in the UK are in areas where the amount of at least one toxic substance in the air is higher than international safety limits, a study has found.

The Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) sourced and mapped pollution levels at 2,000 addresses across the UK, and also found 70% of British addresses breach all three World Health Organization (WHO) limits.

Addresses in Kent, Bath, East Anglia and some coastal towns showed some of the UK’s worst pollution. Unsurprisingly, so did the UK's biggest cities.

Ruth Fitzharris and her son

In London, Ruth Fitzharris said raising her severely asthmatic son amidst high pollution levels makes her feel "trapped". The four-year-old's condition has landed him in hospital on 12 occasions - two of those have been life-threatening. Air pollution exacerbates his asthma, doctors have confirmed.

Ms Fitzharris said: "I feel worried by living somewhere that is unhealthy. When I see him outside, playing in the park and I know that he's breathing in pollutants, it's such a weight to have on your mind."

Dr Abigail Whitehouse, a children's doctor and air pollution specialist said "every day" she treats children admitted with frequent asthma attacks.

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"When you talk to them you find that they are near to a main road or they have a significant amount of pollution near to their school," she said.

The National Association of Estate Agents, a body representing the industry, has recently added air pollution to the list of information that should be presented to potential buyers. However, not all estate agents do.

The COPI is calling for clear legislation that forces agents to publish pollution ratings "similar to the obligations to disclose the presence of other dangerous substances, such as asbestos and radon".

The COPI has published air pollution levels for every address in the UK on its website.