GIBRALTAR has been named the fourth most polluted part of the UK.
It joins more than 40 towns and cities across the country which are at or have exceeded air pollution limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a new report by the WHO, data shows 31 areas have fine particle air pollution levels above 10 micrograms per cubic metre, with another 15 at that limit.
Gibraltar has 14 micrograms per cubic metre, making it the fourth most polluted after Port Talbot (18), Scunthorpe and Salford (both on 15).
The Gibraltar Government pointed to what it said were contributing factors that could not be controlled, including sea salt and African dust.
“Both sea salt and in particular African dust from the Sahara will be higher in Gibraltar than in the UK locations quoted in the report due to our geographical locations,” a Government spokesman said, adding that WHO guidelines are stricter than EU levels.
Fine air particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections.
Around seven million people die each year from exposure to such pollution, with most of these deaths being in low and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa.
In London, levels fell from 17 to 11 micrograms from 2013 to 2015, while in the same period it fell from 17 micrograms to 12 in Sheffield.
Worldwide, the WHO’s report estimated that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:”The UK government needs to show leadership by adopting WHO air quality guidelines into national legislation and in doing so, help to protect the nation’s heart and circulatory health.”
A spokesman for the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “While air quality in the UK has improved significantly since 2010, this report from the WHO clearly shows the impact air pollution is having on the health of men, women and children in the UK and across the world.
“Tackling this important issue is a priority for this government which is why we have a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions and will set out further actions through a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy later this year.”