Exposure to air pollution could depend on your class, ethnicity, and gender

Poor air quality is responsible for over half a million deaths in Europe every year, but not everyone is equally at risk. Our new review found that across Europe, the most deprived people have the worst air quality. This means that the people already experiencing multiple deprivations because of their social class, ethnicity, or gender, also have the unhealthiest environments to live in.

In Wales, deprived areas have the highest levels of major pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, from traffic exhausts, industrial pollution, and wood-burning stoves. Particulate matter forms a fine mist of toxic debris that affects more people than any other type of pollution. Inhaling it can contribute to heart attacks and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer.

For the very smallest particles, there’s no safe threshold below which “no damage to health is observed,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nitrogen dioxide meanwhile is linked to reduced lung function and growth in children and exacerbates asthma.