THE deaths of more than 80 people in Colchester in one year could be attributed to air pollution, a new study has found.

More than one in 19 deaths in UK towns and cities is linked to air pollution.

The Centre for Cities charity found there is a north-south divide for pollution levels, with higher levels of deadly dust, ash and soot, called Particulate Matter (PM2.5), in southern areas.

It shows in the East of England, an estimated 726 deaths were related to pollution in 2017.

This is 28 times the rate of deaths from traffic incidents.

In Colchester, the total number of deaths was 88 – 5.5 per cent of all deaths in the 12 months.

The figures relate to deaths in people aged 25 and over in 2017.

In Tendring it was 115, equivalent to 5.2 per cent of all deaths.

Inhalation of PM2.5 at any level is likely to cause adverse effects, according to the Department for Environment.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said the UK Government should adopt stricter guidelines around PM2.5 emissions.

Mr Carter said: “Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action.

“Cities should be at the centre of the fight against toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.

“The deadly levels of polluted air we’re breathing are legal across most of the UK. This needs to change.”

Martin Goss, Colchester Council’s environment boss, said: “The council is committed to improving air quality across the borough.

“While studies continue to show there is no single solution to improving air quality, we recognise that pollution levels in some areas do remain stubbornly high and that we do need to continue to ensure air quality improvements are considered and introduced at every opportunity.

“In October, the council launched a two year project to raise awareness of air quality issues in Colchester and encourage people to act.

“The project’s objectives are to reduce the numbers of vehicles on the road by increasing the number of people walking and cycling for short journeys, particularly through the Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) and to encourage widespread take-up of No Idling when vehicles are parked and stationary at junctions and traffic lights.” 

 Responses to a survey on the council’s air quality project are being analysed and will help guide future work.