People on lowest incomes breathe most polluted air in Wales, study finds

Income deprived areas disproportionally had the worst air pollution. Credit: PA

New research shows people on the lowest incomes in Wales are breathing in the most polluted air.

The research from Friends of the Earth has renewed calls to bring forward clean air legislation and introduce ambitious air quality targets. 

In the research, Friends of the Earth has identified all the Welsh neighbourhoods that are breaching the WHO 2021 recommended limits for nitrogen oxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (FPM).

Income deprived areas disproportionally had the worst air pollution while people from black, asian and minority ethnic communities are 2.5 times more likely to live in an area with high particulate pollution.

Households in neighbourhoods with the worst air pollution are also less likely to own a car.

People can now check the levels of air pollution in their postcode, however, there are growing calls for air pollution data to be more widely available

Paula Dunster feels more visible date would help inform decisions on travel.

Paula Dunster, a mum from Cardiff, feels air pollution data should be more visible in communities so people can make informed decisions on travel.

“On the school run we have to walk part of the A48 on to Llanederyn Road,” she said.

“It’s incredibly busy, and the school is very close to the roundabout. I do worry about the effects of air pollution, especially as my children are still very young.

“I’m actively involved with Mother’s Climate Action Network but not everyone is aware of the dangers of toxic air.

“Unless the data is visible to all, air pollution can be easily ignored.

“One day, we showed a mum at the school how high the air pollution was, and it concerned her so much, she now walks to the school every day.”

Hafodyrnys Road in Caerphilly was so polluted, a row of houses were demolished

The Welsh Government has long promised a new Clean Air Act for Wales which has cross-party support in the Senedd.

However, clean air campaigners argue the timetable is far too slow.

Joseph Carter, chair of Healthy Air Cymru, said: “This new research is shocking but not surprising.

“Everyone has the right to breathe healthy air. It should have nothing to do with where we live, how much money we earn, our ethnic background or anything else.

“Air pollution seriously damages our lungs and is putting our health at risk. To save lives, and protect our health and the environment, we must have a Clean Air Act for Wales7 as soon as possible.”

Haf Elgar, Vice-Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: “Air pollution is bad for our health and our planet.

“This new research drums home what many of us have long suspected - it is also a social justice and equality issue, affecting the most vulnerable in our society the most, who are often doing the least to cause air pollution.

“If Wales wants to be a fair and just nation, as well as a green one, we must clean up our act now.”

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