Leave to Breathe: The cities most at risk as residents move for cleaner air

New research, commissioned by air quality intelligence company, Enjoy the Air, reveals some interesting facts about the public’s concern regarding air quality.

Enjoy the Air commissioned  Yonder to undertake the research which set out to discover the cause and effect of air pollution and the risk to the public’s health based on where they live. Its recently launched HALO Certification, rewards cities across the UK that meet the Environment Act 2021 and continue to improve and mitigate air quality.

man in blue t-shirt and blue denim shorts holding black dslr camera


The survey examined the feelings of 4,000 UK adults and found that Londoners are the most likely to up sticks on health grounds, with nearly two in five (39%) considering moving for cleaner air. This would mean an exodus of around 3.5 million people from the capital.

Overall, 29% of the public would consider moving to another city for better air quality – rising to a a huge 48% amongst the 18-24 age group.

It’s probably no surprise that the greatest concern rests among the younger generation but interestingly, they claim to feel physically affected by air quality more than others, with 46% of the aforementioned cohort claiming to have experienced air pollution-related symptoms in their breathing. Of the most vulnerable population, the over 65s, only 28% reported feeling such effects.

After London, it is the population of Birmingham who are most likely to leg it for fresher air, with 36% of respondents saying they would consider moving, dropping to 29% for the combined residents of Manchester and Liverpool.

The Scots seem relatively content, with just 28% of them considering a move (the country met legal limits for air pollution in 2022 for the first time).

Polluting vehicles were identified as a leading cause of poor air quality, with 38% of respondents feeling a direct ill-effect on their breathing.  However, just 13% of the population are aware of how to access information on local pollution levels.

Following on from this, it was found that over half of Londoners (53%) support clean air zones, despite certain media outlets dressing up the ULEZ expansion as the work of the devil.

Kate Barnard, Founder and CEO of Enjoy the Air, said: ‘It is staggering that nearly half of the young population are willing to vote with their feet in pursuit of cleaner air and improved wellbeing. In the UK, air pollution is a silent killer responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths each year. The effects of rising levels of particulate matter on those living in major cities is clear to see in this research.

‘With just 13% of the public aware of how to access information on local pollution levels, more must now be done to bring air pollution levels down within WHO recommended limits and to increase transparency in local communities. Improved collaboration between Government and experts in the field will support a speedier transition to clean air for all.’

Photo: Michal Balog


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