AIR pollution will continue to kill scores of people every year in Southampton until 2030, the Government has admitted.
Ministers had predicted that European limits on deadly nitrogen dioxide – mainly from vehicle exhausts – would be achieved in the city by 2020.
But officials are now warning that people in the ‘Southampton urban area’ will be exposed to dangerous levels of the gas for a further decade.
Meanwhile, separate figures put the current number of “excess deaths” from nitrogen dioxide and other particulate gases in Southampton at 110 every year.
A further 495 people die annually across Hampshire, including in the New Forest (97), Isle of Wight (78), Fareham (59), Eastleigh (55), Test Valley (51) and Winchester (51).
Southampton is joined by Portsmouth, as well as London, Birmingham and Leeds, on a list of the biggest urban areas where dangerous air pollution will continue until 2030.
The news comes after the Daily Echo revealed earlier this year that an air-monitoring station based close to two of the city’s most congested roads was being axed by city chiefs to cut costs.
The station, based in Millbrook Road, was used to measure potentially toxic fumes from traffic and industries.
The department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) blamed the delay on higher-than-expected emissions from diesel cars.
Diesel has replaced petrol in many cars – because it produces less carbon dioxide, blamed for climate change – but emissions of nitrogen dioxide are higher.
To the Government’s embarrassment, the Eu’s original deadline for meeting the limits was 2010.
Jenny Bates, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Failure to meet air pollution limits in our major cities for another 16 years would have serious impacts on the health of thousands of people.
“These air quality rules should already have been met. Government and councils must make this issue an urgent priority and end this scandal.”
The revised estimates were buried on Defra’s website, after it became clear that the laboratory test for car emissions underestimates the amount of air pollution from diesel cars.
The EU’s air quality directive sets a limit of no more than 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air that we breathe, as an annual average.
But according to Defra, that annual average will be 66 in Southampton in 2015, falling to 48 (in 2020), 41 (in 2025) and to 39 (in 2030).
The European Court of Justice will rule by the end of the year on what action Britain needs to take.