MORE than 160 people in Southampton have died because of air pollution in just one year, it has been revealed.

New data have shown that in 2017 there were 168 air pollution related deaths in the city.

This is the 5.7% of all adult deaths in Southampton in the same year, researchers said.

City bosses have said action to improve air quality in the city is being taken.

But experts are now calling on civic chiefs and the government to prevent “avoidable deaths”.

The figures were revealed by research and policy institute Centre for Cities and refer to the numbers of PM2.5 related deaths.

Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air.  It can be either human-made or naturally occurring with examples including dust, ash and sea-spray, experts said.

The research revealed that an estimated 1317 people were killed by PM2.5-related deaths in the South East’s cities and large towns in just one year with the highest recorded in Slough (6.4%) and the lowest one in Worthing (5.6%).

Meanwhile Southampton was listed second lower but its proportion of deaths linked to PM2.5  remains still higher than the national urban average of 5.2%.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action. People in the South East should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including  banning wood burning stoves. 

“To help the Government needs to provide the South East’s councils with extra money and introduce stricter guidelines.  Failure to act now will lead to more deaths in the South East.”

Experts said transport is a “significant” but not sole contributor to air pollution. Burning fuels is also “a major cause”.

For example, half of deadly PM2.5 toxins generated in cities and large towns come from sources such as wood burning stoves and coal fires,  according to researchers.

The news comes as  in June last year Southampton City Council launched its Green City Charter, to work on a  number of measures aimed at tackling air pollution.

Opposition leader Dan Fitzhenry said the figures are concerning and urged the city council “to do more”.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith  added: “It is not acceptable that we are having people dying because of the state of air quality and we need to be doing more and more quickly.”

Cllr Steve Leggett, cabinet member for environment at the city council said a number of measures has already been implemented including new cycle lanes, a ban on older and more polluting taxis and charging points for electric vehicles.

He added: “Southampton City Council is leading in delivering air quality improvements. We are able to demonstrate a steady reduction in the levels of key pollutants over the last 10 years. 

“We acknowledge that there is a much better understanding of the relationship between air quality and public health and that impacts are likely to be greater than previously understood. Our vision is to create a cleaner, greener, healthier and more sustainable city. Our Green City Charter sets out the priorities and commitments to help us achieve this. ”