Air pollution in the Harrogate district has contributed to 68 deaths in just one year, a new report has revealed.
The figures, published for the first time by Public Health England (PHE) estimate the number of deaths linked to long-term exposure to particle air pollution.
And they show that more people died from pollution in the Harrogate district in 2010 than anywhere else in North Yorkshire outside of York.
“It’s a scandal that thousands of people die prematurely in our region every year because of polluted air,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Simon Bowens. “Tougher measures are needed to tackle the causes of our dirty air, especially traffic pollution.
“Ministers and local authorities must develop an urgent action plan to introduce cleaner vehicles and encourage the use of alternative forms of transport – people won’t be able to breathe easily until they do.”
The figures showed there were 257 deaths in North Yorkshire in 2010 linked to air pollution, with 24 in Craven, 56 in Scarborough, and 34 in Selby. York had 82.
They were calculated by assessing the impact on health of man-made particles, which can come from the burning of fossil fuels, cars, road dust and emissions from agriculture.
And while air quality has improved considerably in the UK in recent years due to new technologies and tighter legislation, the report said more could be done at a local level.
Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), welcoming the report, said it was already taking steps to tackle the issue.
An action plan was in place for two areas in the district, a spokesman said, after measures to monitor air quality showed an increase in levels of nitrogen dioxide in Bond End Knaresborough and Low Skellgate in Ripon.
“We have also recently received a grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to install two rapid charging points for electric vehicles in the district,” a statement said.
“This could encourage people to consider using less polluting vehicles to do their bit in tackling the air quality problem.”
The council has monitored air quality in the past, the spokesman said, but had not found any breaches in objectives.
“We are continuing to monitor air quality and will liaise with PHE on the findings in their report on particulate matter and if it can be established where the problem areas are we will look to undertake monitoring to provide actual data to feed in to any future modelling they may carry out,” he added.