GLASGOW and Edinburgh have been shown to have the “cleanest air” in a study of UK cities and towns focusing on pollution.

A study by sustainable energy provider GRIDSERVE found 76% of British high streets may exceed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended annual level of air pollution.

The recommendation is that annual levels of PM2.5 pollutants should not exceed five micrograms per cubic meter air (µg/m3).

Glasgow was shown to have the cleanest air in the study of 25 cities and towns, with a reading of just 2.2, followed by Edinburgh at 2.7.

Particulate matter (PM) is everything in the air that’s not gas and consists of many chemical compounds and materials.

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Scotland was the first country in Europe to adopt the WHO recommended limit for PM2.5 in 2016.

GRIDSERVE used an air quality measuring device to conduct air pollution spot checks on the main high streets in each area.

Only six of the 25 streets in the study had air pollution with WHO’s annual recommendation – including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The pedestrianised Buchanan Street was used in the study for Glasgow alongside Princes Street in Edinburgh, which is largely limited to trams, buses and taxis.

Sam Clarke, chief vehicle officer at GRIDSERVE, said: “It’s shocking to see that so many [streets] were above the World Health Organisation’s annual recommendations for air pollution and that one in 10 shoppers are even planning on foregoing high streets altogether due to air quality.

“If we’re to reach the WHO’s annual target of 5 µg/m3 of PM2.5 in our air, collectively we need to change our behaviours.

“With vehicle emissions being a key contributor, anything we can do to travel more greenly, from walking more to cycling, and including electric vehicles, is a very valuable step forward to improve the air we breathe daily.”

Stoke-on-Trent was found to have the worst air quality, followed by Newcastle and Leicester.

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No pattern was found regarding whether high streets were pedestrianised or not, but high streets were found to have on average 53% more PM2.5 in the air than the closest park.

Additional research among 2000 adults revealed 40% are concerned about air quality on the street where they do most of their shopping.

As a result, more than a third of people (36%) have concerns over the health of their community due to air pollution while just over one in 10 avoid shopping where there are lots of cars, or forgo the high street in favour of online shopping.