Press Release

World Health Organisation apologises after Port Talbot wrongly labelled 'UK's most polluted'

04 May 2018

After Port Talbot was widely derided as “Britain’s most polluted town” following a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the Swiss based organisation has now sent an apology to Neath Port Talbot Council for getting its figures wrong.

Aberavon beach

Dr Maria Neira, the Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said the particulate pollution figure of 18 micrograms per cubic metre of air for Port Talbot should have read 9.6.

The 18 micrograms figure for PM2.5 levels (micro-particles) put Port Talbot above places like London (14) and Liverpool (12) but on Friday WHO accepted its figure was wrong which meant Port Talbot, despite being bisected by the M4 and hosting one of Europe’s biggest steel mills, was on a par or cleaner than many other towns and cities. 

But on Friday, WHO’s Dr Neira said in a message sent to Neath Port Talbot Council: “Thank  you for bringing to our attention the discrepancy with regard to PM2.5 level published for Port Talbot, Wales, in WHO’s Ambient Air Quality Database, released on 2 May 2018.

“The World Health Organization has reviewed the air pollution figures published. After an in-depth review and in consultation with the European Environment Agency, we unfortunately detected an oversight.

“The PM2.5 level for the year 2015 for Port Talbot should be 9.6853 (and is rounded to 10 in the updated excel sheet) and is noted as “measured.”  The PM2.5 was erroneously featured as a converted (estimated) value of 18.
“The World Health Organisation has taken immediate steps to rectify this on its WHO web site, and in the Database.  We regret that this error happened.
“We wish to reiterate WHO has brought together information on outdoor air pollution collected by cities worldwide in order to raise awareness and facilitate adequate responses to protect public health from the adverse impacts of outdoor air pollution.

“Many cities in the world, including some expected to be among the most polluted, do not collect information or report on its outdoor air quality.   WHO therefore cannot compare cities based on their levels of outdoor air pollution. WHO does not rank cities either.
“WHO praises all cities that collect and disseminate information on outdoor air quality for their action.  This is the first crucial step to identify if there is an outdoor air pollution problem and to begin to take corrective action. 

“The cities which have invested in the capacity to regularly monitor and report the local air quality measurements have already demonstrated a commitment to starting to address air quality issues and public health.”



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