Doncaster town centre street has some of the highest levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in South Yorkshire

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A busy street in Doncaster town centre has some of the highest levels of Nitrogen Dioxide recorded in South Yorkshire, new figures have revealed.

Figures published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs have shown that Cleveland Street has recorded average annual NO2 levels of 40ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre), compared with levels of just 17ug/m3 in Barnsley Gawber and 23ug/m3 at Devonshire Green in Sheffield.

The Tinsley area of Sheffield was recorded as having levels of 35ug/m3.

The figures have been released as the GMB trade union has today condemned Volkswagen, after the company confirmed that around 1.2 million of its vehicles sold in the UK are fitted with the software behind the emissions scandal.

The scandal came to light when US regulators discovered that discovered that certain vehicles made by Volkswagen were fitted with software that would make their diesel engines operate differently when they sensed that the car was being tested.

It meant that the vehicles emitted considerably more pollutants in real world driving conditions than they had in testing.

John McClean, GMB National Health, Safety and Environment officer, said: “These figures on nitrogen dioxide confirm the urgent need for better air quality monitoring in urban and built up areas. Clean air should be a right, not a privilege.

“Road transport is a major cause of air pollution. Even though engine technology is improving, these exposure levels are still dangerously high, and place workers and the public at increased risk of respiratory diseases.

“What VW has done is unforgivable. The company should be severely punished for it’s immoral, devious and deceitful approach to public health risks as well as mis-selling to car drivers.”

“GMB has already had enquiries for company car drivers worried that emissions scales on which their VW cars are taxed could be reviewed by HMRC landing them with additional taxes.”

The union has reiterated its call for high polluting vehicles to be banned from city centres, and for local authorities to take immediate action in priority areas such as near schools, hospitals and GP surgeries.

Nitrogen dioxide has a variety of environmental and health impacts. It is a respiratory irritant which may exacerbate asthma and possibly increase susceptibility to infections. These gases irritate the airways of the lungs, increasing the symptoms of those suffering from lung diseases. In the presence of sunlight, it reacts with hydrocarbons to produce photochemical pollutants such as ozone. NO2 can be further oxidised in air to acidic gases, which contribute towards the generation of acid rain.

The European Union sets NO2 levels at 40ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) on average over a year.