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Nearly half of marginal battlegrounds afflicted by illegal levels of air pollution

Nearly half of the key marginal seats in the 2017 general election are in areas affected by illegal levels of roadside air pollution, an analysis by the Greenpeace investigations unit has found.

51 of the 111 seats where the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats came a close second in the last election breach legal limits for nitrogen dioxide air pollution according to an analysis of government data.

Some of the seats with the lowest Conservative majorities are among the areas worst affected by air pollution, including Derby North and Croydon Central and the outer London constituencies of Kingston and Surbiton, and Twickenham.

In addition, some constituencies where the Conservatives hope to make big gains against Labour are also among those worst affected by roadside pollution, including areas of London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire.

Anna Jones, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said“Our dirty air is a national scandal, and voters want to know the next government is going to make tackling it a priority. People all over the country are feeling the effects of illegal air pollution coming from our roads. From heart disease to dementia, it seems like scientists are discovering air pollution is linked to an ever-expanding range of chronic and life-threatening conditions. This is a crisis that cannot be ignored, no matter how much some politicians want to pretend it isn’t happening.”

Levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the UK have broken legal limits every year since 2010, and the UK’s toxic air has been described as a public health emergency.

The government published its long-awaited air quality plan on 5 May, after losing a battle in the High Court to delay publication until after the election. It was received with widespread condemnation for being a woefully inadequate response to the crisis, and for ‘passing the buck’ to Local Authorities. And just days ago, it was confirmed the government will face further legal action over ‘major flaws’ in these new proposals.

Despite government concerns that action on air pollution would be a vote-loser, a recent poll found the majority of the public is now in favour of banning the most-polluting vehicles from city centres.

Anna continued: “To tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis, we need to tackle diesel vehicles. Even the newest diesel cars on our roads are pumping out a lot more pollution than is allowed. The car companies are cheating emissions tests, and now we’re paying the price with our health.” 

Greenpeace is calling for the car industry to ditch diesel, and switch to electric, and for government to support urgent transformation on our roads away from diesel and towards hybrid and electric vehicles.

Diesel vehicles are responsible for 90% of the poisonous nitrogen oxides (NOx) coming from roads.

Following the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal that rocked the car industry in 2015, it’s come to light that car companies have been knowingly breaking air pollution standards.

Despite some moves to alter testing regulations and ‘fix’ some of the cars, two-thirds of the newest EURO 6 diesel cars still aren’t meeting emissions standards in real world conditions. And some new diesel cars emit 15 times more toxic pollution than they are supposed to.

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