Gibraltar has been ranked third in a list of the most polluted cities in the UK, ahead of major cities including London and Manchester.
This follows the publication of data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showing that 47 British towns and cities match or exceed limits of air pollution.
WHO researchers looked at fine particle emissions – called PM 2.5 – which travel deeply into people’s respiratory systems and can lead to health problems.
The data once again puts the spotlight on air quality in Gibraltar, just weeks after a German expert found “shocking” levels of pollution here.
But last night, the Gibraltar Government pointed to what it said were contributing factors that could not be controlled, including sea salt and African dust.
“Both sea salt and in particular African dust from the Sahara will be higher in Gibraltar than in the UK locations quoted in the report due to our geographical locations,” a Government spokesman said, adding that WHO guidelines are stricter than EU levels.
The quality of the air breathed by communities in this region has been the focus of much debate in recent weeks.
A day after the german expert raised concerns about Gibraltar’s air quality, Spanish environmentalists highlighted data showing that legal limits for emissions were exceeded 36 times over four days in Puente Mayorga, the small town adjacent to the refinery in the Campo de Gibraltar.
Additionally, the subject prompted a spat between the Government and Opposition, with GSD MP Trevor Hammond insisting that the government needed to “start being honest” about how it read air quality and that air pollution had worsened under the GSLP/Liberal administration.
For its part, however, the Government has insisted that air quality in Gibraltar is improving all the time, particularly with the closure of the old South District power stations.
Yesterday the Government said that while particulate levels in Gibraltar were below EU limits and declining, it was not satisfied and continued to work to reduce this further.
It added that one contributing factor is the burning of diesel, adding that the use of this fuel for power generation at the old power stations and at the temporary generators would stop this year following the commissioning of the new LNG power station.
“This will have a significant impact in reducing this type of pollution as well as others and is a measure that Government is introducing largely in order to tackle air quality as a whole,” the spokesman said.
“Another measure is the Sustainable Traffic Plan, which includes steps to encourage less use of cars and to reduce speed such as speed cameras.”
Shipping is also a contributing factor and Government continues to work towards ensuring shore power is available to berthed vessels.
The Government added that further measures will be announced shortly together with a wide range of other environmental plans.
The Welsh town of Port Talbot, home of the Port Talbot steelworks, topped the list followed by Scunthorpe and Salford with the second-worst levels of pollution in the UK.
Many of the country’s main cities exceed the WHO limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham.
Port Talbot recorded 18 micrograms per cubic metre in the last recorded data from 2015, the same as Marseille in France, Singapore and the Ecuadorian capital Quito, and higher than Belgian capital Brussels (16).
The figures show varying levels of pollution in Port Talbot over time, with the figure at 16 in 2013, down to 10 in 2014 and on the rise again in 2015.
Scunthorpe and Salford recorded the second-worst levels of pollution in the UK, with 15 micrograms per cubic metre recorded, followed by Gibraltar and Thurrock on 14.
Manchester and Swansea were on 13, and cities including Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Plymouth, Sheffield and York recorded 12, one above London which showed 11 micrograms per cubic metre in 2015.
This figure represents a drop from 17 in 2013, while in Carlisle the levels have gone up from eight in 2013 to 12 in 2015.
Cities on the WHO limit of 10 include Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Southampton.
The most polluted city in 2015 according to the WHO data is Muzaffarpur in India, with a figure of 197 micrograms per cubic metre, although this figure is under revision.
Below that is Pasakha in Bhutan (150), Delhi in India (123) and greater Cairo in Egypt (117).