Highest NO2 levels in Europe recorded in UK city

Monitoring data from Airly found significant increases in air pollution across Europe in March, with Newcastle featuring at the top of the list for highest NO2 levels.

The rise in pollution was influenced by a Sahara Desert dust storm that travelled across Europe last month.

All of the 20 most polluted cities exceeded the new World Health Organization (WHO) standard for NO2.

Marcin Gnat, a spokesperson at Airly, commented: ‘This study confirms others which suggest that almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits, and threatens their health.

‘Although the number of countries and cities where air quality is monitored continuously is increasing, there is still a lack of such information in a great number of vulnerable sites.

‘By knowing the exact pollution situation in their surroundings, local governments and communities are able to take appropriate steps to improve air quality, and then monitor the effectiveness of the actions taken.’

white bridge over body of water during daytime

For NO2, Newcastle upon Tyne ranked highest in March, followed by Naples, Paris and Antwerp. Other UK cities in the top 20 most polluted of Europe included London and Manchester.

In September 2021, the WHO announced stricter standards on NO2 and PM10 levels. The new 24-hour PM10 norms were changed from 50 µg/m3 to 45 µg/m3 and NO2 levels were confirmed as 25 µg/m3, previously as advisory level.

NO2 levels in Newcastle were 179% of the WHO’s safe level of 25 µg/m3 at 44.6 µg/m3.

Spain ranked highest for PM10 pollution in March, with Malaga and Seville ranking highest out of the European cities, followed by Belgrade, Katowice and Antwerp. Leeds was the only UK city to make the top 20 list for PM10, ranked at 11th place.

PM10 in Malaga was 125% of WHO safe norm, at 56.1 µg/m3, while Leeds had a level of 34.3 µg/m3.

Photo by Ryan Booth


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Fernando Martin Llorente
Fernando Martin Llorente
2 years ago

The high concentrations of PM10 in Malaga and Seville were due to some record dust outbreaks from the Sahara Desert during March

Geoff Broughton
Geoff Broughton
2 years ago

How was the rise of NO2 in Newcastle upon Tyne influenced by a Sahara Desert dust storm which is usually associated with PM10 and PM2.5 ?

Barb okelly
Barb okelly
2 years ago

Is it just cities which are included in the ranking? Many towns, such as Shoreham by Sea in West Sussex also have problems with air pollution , especially PM 2.5. For some reason they are not included on the UK air website and yet at times they have been higher than some London boroughs .
As a local resident involved with a local environmental group I welcome your articles and use them to help keep local residents informed . Thank you .

2 years ago

It would have been interesting if the article had the stats for PM2.5. It was very high in Manchester presumably caused by Sahara dust. This dust would contain Silica Sand another Carcinogen

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