Serious concerns raised over Wales' air pollution
18 October 2012

18 October 2012

A leading environmental group has raised serious concerns about the rising levels of air pollution in Wales and the Welsh Government's approach to controlling it. Friends of the Earth Cymru have uncovered evidence that far from air quality improving, there has been a worrying decline in air quality between 2009 and 2010.

Gareth Clubb, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said:

"The Welsh Government recently announced that air quality continues to improve in Wales[1]. But we've looked at the evidence and it's clear that 5 out of the 7 air pollutants the report considers increased between 2009 and 2010[2]. The Welsh Government appears to be misleading the Welsh public.

"And the most recent figures from the UK Government are extremely bleak, with Cardiff, Swansea, South Wales and North Wales all above the legal limits for a number of dangerous pollutants[3].

"Air pollution already cuts the life of most people short by eight months[4]. In highly polluted places - of which there are several in Wales[5] - the price people can pay for air pollution is a death two years earlier than it should be. The Welsh Government must make sure this backsliding isn't the start of a dangerous trend. 

"The Welsh Government needs to be working with industry, transport and agriculture to help clean up this dangerous pollution. Less pollution is as good for our lungs as it is for our employment figures."


  1. Welsh Government press release, 13 September 2012: Air quality continues to improve in Wales 
  2. National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, September 2012

    In Wales:
    • Emissions of ammonia are estimated at 27kt in 2010. These emissions increased by 3.7% between 2009 and 2010. Manure management represents 67% of total ammonia emissions in 2010, with 51% of total emissions originating from cattle manure management alone.
    • Emissions of carbon monoxide are estimated at 190kt in 2010 and declined by 14.1% between 2009 and 2010. The iron & steel industry contributed to 33% of the 2010 total.
    • Emissions of nitrogen oxides are estimated at 82kt in 2010. Emissions increased by 0.2% between 2009 and 2010, with 29% of emissions in 2010 stemming from power generation. Recent trends in electricity generation have dominated the overall trends, with large fluctuations in coal-fired power generation.
    • Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds are estimated at 43kt in 2010, with a 2.0% reduction in emissions between 2009 and 2010. This reduction was principally the result of a continued decrease in road transport sources, continuing a trend since 1990, as well as a decline in the solvent and other product use sector. This sector accounted for 41% of emissions in 2010.
    • Emissions of PM10 are estimated at 9kt in 2010 and increased by 2.2% between 2009 and 2010. 28% of emissions come from commercial and residential combustion and emissions from road transport sources accounted for 15%.
    • Emissions of sulphur dioxide are estimated at 33kt in 2010. They increased by 5.4% between 2009 and 2010. Petroleum refineries are the most significant source in Wales, accounting for 37% of emissions.
    • Emissions of lead are estimated at 13.5t in 2010. Emissions increased by 21.8% between 2009 and 2010. 81% of 2010 emissions came from industrial processes.
  3. Cardiff Urban Area, Swansea Urban Area, South Wales and North Wales all breached the nitrogen dioxide limits. Swansea Urban Area and South Wales also breached the nickel and benzo[a]pyrene targets.
    Defra, Air Pollution in the UK 2011 - Compliance Assessment Summary
  4. European Environment Agency, Air Quality in Europe - 2012 Report
  5. 8 of Wales' local authorities have declared Air Quality Management Areas in order to deal with air pollution.    

For further information, please contact Friends of the Earth Cymru on 029 2022 9577