Air pollution is responsible for one in 20 deaths in Dorset, new figures show.

According to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, figures show air pollution is responsible for 4.4 per cent of deaths of people in the county aged over 30 in 2022.

This was down from 4.9 per cent the year before and was below pre-pandemic levels of 5.5 per cent.

Campaigners have criticised the Government's slow response to 'dangerous fine particle air pollution' and urged it to bring the UK's air quality targets in line with global health advice.

Thursday, June 20 is National Clean Air Day, which is an opportunity for people to write to their local councillors and MPs to express concerns regarding their local area's air quality.

Chideock has previously been described as having some of the worst air pollution in the country.

This follows on from a recent meeting in the West Dorset village of Chideock after academics from Bristol University shared research from their project looking at the rate of particulate matter in the area.

Research showed that during February to May, four exceedances of particulate matter during a 24-hour reading were picked up, prompting further studies.

This was said to be a "cause for concern".

George Dunn, a campaigner for the Chideock Air Quality Working Group and village resident for the past 25 years said he was ‘horrified’ to hear of the statistics about deaths and air pollution.

He said: “It’s horrific to think that there is that sort of risk associated with living in areas like ours.

“It’s a very sobering thought and not comforting, and you know things are linked with concerns and cancers, and the hope is that it is just a sore throat or a cough, but the longer you leave it, the greater the risks are.

“It’s a public health hazard, and I’m personally bitterly disappointed that the national authorities, Dorset Council, and our MPs have remained silent on the matter. How much worse are things going to get before a solution is put in place."

The campaigners in the village have been trying to press for a bypass to be built since the 1990s, and calls were again made after the village was found to have the worst air pollution levels in the country. 

Mr Dunn said: “We know there is no easy solution but one would be effective, a bypass. But successive governments and MPs have let us down.”

Imogen Martineau, head of UK portfolio at the Clean Air Fund, said the UK is 'going in the wrong direction in tackling air pollution'.

The Government says it wants to halve pollution levels of fine particles to reach an annual mean concentration of 10 micrograms per cubic metre by 2040.

The World Health Organization's current advice says this figure should be no more than five micrograms per cubic metre.

Ms Martineau said policymakers must work towards the WHO's air quality guidelines, adding: "It’s time to recognise the co-benefits which clean air can bring – better health, action on climate change, and improved economies."

Climate campaigners the Friends of the Earth said air pollution unfairly affects marginalised communities, especially those in cities.

The figures showed significant regional inequality across England, with 17 of the 18 areas with the worst air pollution death rates in London. The other was Watford, a commuter town in the East of England.

In London in 2022, 7.1 per cent of the deaths of people aged 30 or above were due to air pollution.

At the other end of the scale, the 11 areas with the lowest proportion of air pollution-related deaths were all in the South West, with air pollution responsible for 4.6 per cent of deaths in the region.

Larissa Lockwood, director of clean air at Global Action Plan, said: "The solutions to our air pollution problem already exist. We need the Government to take urgent action to ensure everyone in the UK can breathe cleaner air."

Ms Lockwood said providing people with greener travel options and phasing out wood burning in urban areas would help improve air quality.

"No one should have their life cut short because they do not have access to clean air," she added.

Friends of the Earth said the Government "is not acknowledging" the dangers of air pollution.

Climate, transport and air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: "The Government must act now by bringing particulate matter targets in line with the WHO’s interim guidelines by 2030, and enshrine the right to clean air."

A government spokesperson said it has made 'significant progress improving air quality since 2010'.

They said: "We have delivered significant reductions in emissions – with fine particulate matter falling by 24 per cent, and nitrogen oxides down by 48 per cent.

"We also met our targets to reduce emissions for all five key pollutants in the latest reporting year."