The UK government is “flouting” its duty to protect the lives and health of its citizens from illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution, according to the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights related to toxic waste.
Baskut Tuncak issued his warning after a fact-finding mission to the UK in January at the invitation of the government in a report that has been shared exclusively with the Guardian before it is presented to the UN human rights council this week.
“Air pollution continues to plague the UK,” he said. “I am alarmed that despite repeated judicial instruction, the UK government continues to flout its duty to ensure adequate air quality and protect the rights to life and health of its citizens. It has violated its obligations.”
Such harsh international criticism will be embarrassing for the government, whose air pollution plans have already been ruled illegally poor twice. The latest plan forced by the courts was released in July but condemned as “woefully inadequate” by city leaders and “inexcusable” by doctors.
Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths every year in Britain and was declared a “public health emergency” by MPs in 2016. Air pollution is worst overall in London, but many other places have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel vehicles, such as Leeds, Birmingham, Bournemouth and Northampton. Ipswich has higher levels of particulate matter than London.
London breached its nominal annual air pollution limits five days into 2017 at Brixton Road in south London. Other known pollution hotspots in the capital include Putney High Street in west London, Oxford Street, Kings Road in Chelsea and the Strand.
Read more: The Guardian