Air pollution is a “public health crisis” and needs to be tackled urgently, a health agency has warned. Public Health Wales (PHW) said it was second only to smoking and more of a concern than obesity and alcohol. Its figures show air pollution causes 2,000 deaths a year – 6% of Wales’ total. The most blighted areas include Hafodyrynys Road in Crumlin, Caerphilly, and the UK’s most polluted street outside London. EU regulations dictate there is a level of air pollution which can be hit 18 times before breaching legal limits – and the road has exceeded it 57 times this year. “We all know smoking is probably the number one public health priority, air pollution probably comes second to that,” PHW’s Huw Brunt told BBC Wales’ Week in Week Out programme. “If you talk about obesity, inactivity and alcohol, they actually come behind air pollution.”
Half of homeowners on the worst-affected side of Hafodyrynys Road called on the council to compulsorily purchase their homes and demolish them because traffic is so bad. The street leads to Pontypool, Torfaen, in one direction and allows motorists to travel towards the M4 via Caerphilly County in the other. “We’ve lived here for nearly 40 years and the traffic every year you can see it getting worse,” said pensioner Neil Howells, who lives with wife Dawn. “It’s just beyond a joke. I want to get away from here but how can I? I can’t get another mortgage at my age. I wished they’d flatten it and give us somewhere else to go.” Mr Howells suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and says fumes make it harder from him to breathe.He added: “Sometimes we feel like prisoners here, we can’t get out.”

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