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This city has the worst air quality in the UK – and it’s not London

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Being nicknamed ‘The Big Smoke’ and all, London is probably the first place that comes to mind when you think of UK cities with terrible levels of air pollution. But it turns out that the capital isn’t the worst culprit when it comes to having dirty air. In fact, across Britain, it’s not even the second or third worst for air quality.

The people at insurance provider InsureMy looked at air quality data from 2017 to January 2024 to find out which of the UK’s major cities breathes in the worst quality air. The study took into account stuff like levels of dust, soot, dirt and smoke. 

And out of 14 of our biggest cities, the report found that Manchester has the worst levels of air pollution, followed by Belfast and Bristol.

A spokesperson for InsureMy said: ‘In the past, London would have probably been the worst city in the UK for air quality, but our data analysis suggests it has cleaner air than Bristol, Belfast and Manchester.

‘Whether this is a result of the congestion charge and ULEZ having an impact is open to debate but, even so, the UK appears to have comparatively good air compared to other major capital cities.’

On the flipside, Scotland came up trumps as home to the cities with the cleanest air. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow were named the UK cities with the least grimy air. 

Here are the UK’s cities ranked in order of best to worst air quality, according to InsureMy’s report. 

  1. Edinburgh

  1. Glasgow

  1. Leeds

  1. Liverpool

  1. Sheffield

  1. Leicester

  1. Newcastle

  1. Birmingham

  1. Nottingham

  1. Cardiff

  1. London

  1. Bristol

  1. Belfast

  1. Manchester

Glasgow’s high air quality could have something to do with the fact that it introduced a Low Emissions Zone back the the summer, while Edinburgh is expected to impose its own later this year. London is also trying to clean up the atmosphere with new air filtration systems on the London Underground. If you want to know more about how and why air pollution is being tackled, take a read of Time Out’s interview with London clean air campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah

Did you see that this surprising brand is one of Britain’s fastest growing supermarket chains?

Plus: this surprising seaside town has been named Britain’s ‘most depressing’ place to live.

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