Is Blackpool the most air polluted town in Lancashire?

Blackpool is top of the pollution charts for the north west according to a new report
Blackpool is top of the pollution charts for the north west according to a new report
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A recent study found the resort had more people living in areas with unsafe air pollution levels than anywhere else in the North West.

But Blackpool Council has questioned the figures, which are based on the location of GP surgeries that residents are registered with, saying levels have been lower than the World Health Organisation’s guidelines “for some time”.

READ MORE>>> This is how Blackpool's pollution levels compare to its Lancashire neighbours

The new report – published by UK100, a local government network that supports clean energy, ahead of a Clean Air Summit in London this week – said some 113,228 Blackpool patients receive medical treatment in places that exceed safe air pollution levels.

The study was based on PM2.5 levels – the amount of tiny but harmful particles found in the air.

Just 60,807 patients attend practices where those “fine particulate matter” levels are considered acceptable, the study found.

It means 65 per cent of Blackpool patients are breathing in harmful particles so small they can only be detected with an electron microscope every time they visit their GP.

In Lancashire, only Burnley scored a higher percentage, with 67,253 out of 98,692 people (68.1 per cent) attending surgeries where PM2.5 levels exceeding those recommended by WHO.

But Coun Amy Cross (pictured left), Blackpool Council cabinet member for health, said: “We need to further understand the report that has just come out and how these figures have been reached as Blackpool’s levels have been lower than WHO set guidelines for some time.

“Blackpool has only got one air quality management area which is located around Central Blackpool and there is an action plan to improve the air quality there.

“Blackpool is working towards a detailed Green and Blue infrastructure strategy as the health and well-being of residents is a high priority.

“In addition, there are already a wide range of local initiatives and projects that are helping reduce emissions such as the expansion of the tramway network and schemes such as ‘Living Streets’ which encourages people to walk to school instead of using the car.”

Council that find areas are not meeting air quality standards are required to designate air quality management areas and set out a plan to tackle the problem.

Blackpool and Wyre have one each. There are none in Fylde.

According to the new report, in Wyre, 11,876 patients out of a total of 105,626 (11.2 per cent) attended GP surgeries where PM2.5 levels were too high.

In Fylde, it said, all 72,463 registered patients attended practices where PM2.5 levels were acceptable.

A Wyre Council spokesman said: “Wyre Council monitors air quality in its borough reporting the results every 12 months.

“The largest source of air pollution within the borough is traffic pollution, therefore the council monitors nitrogen dioxide levels, which is a pollutant of vehicle combustion engines as is PM2.5 particles.

“The nitrogen dioxide levels in Wyre for the last few years are all below the European Union trigger levels for action.

“On the basis of these results the council is actively considering revoking the air quality management area – which seems to have improved since a new link road was introduced taking some of the traffic away from the problem area.”

Lancaster is the third worst offender in Lancashire when it comes to the number of people exposed to air pollution, the UK100 figures show.

Some 60,872 out of 157,240 patients reportedly attend GPs in polluted areas.

Chorley ranked fourth on the list, with 44,592 out of 112,291 people attending practices where air pollution was above the level accepted by WHO.

Wyre was fifth and Hyndburn was sixth.

No other area in Lancashire had any patients reported to be attending GP surgeries in overly polluted areas according to the study.

Air pollution is one of the biggest killers in the UK, with more people dying from air pollution than diabetes and road deaths combined, the study said.

According to figures published by King’s College London on behalf of the Government, every year 36,000 people die prematurely from air pollution.

In England today, around 17.9 million NHS patients are registered at a GP practice that exceeds the WHO limit for air pollution.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s just not acceptable that nearly 18 million people are breathing unsafe levels of air pollution when seeking medical care from their GP.

“We know that our society’s most vulnerable people – especially children, the elderly and those with heart and lung problems – are most at risk from air pollution. More must be done to keep them and health care staff safe.”