Pollution is causing premature deaths as public health bosses battle to clean up the district’s air.
Harmful substances breathed in from exhaust emissions and other sources are a threat to the health of people with breathing problems and cause one in 20 premature deaths in the Wakefield district.
Deaths linked to polluted air in Wakefield are at the highest level in Yorkshire and Humberside and above the national average, a council report warns.
The annual report to the council’s Health Protection Sub-Group warns that local authorities could be hit with fines for poor air quality.
It said: “Exposure to poor air quality has a range of health impacts and causes premature mortality in more than one in twenty people in Wakefield, the highest level in the Yorkshire and Humberside region and above the national average, with estimated costs of £19bn to the UK economy.”
The government could be hit with fines from the European Union for failing to cut emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide, which is linked to respiratory problems.
The report said: “The region is also failing to meet EU obligations in relation to air quality which may lead to fines being imposed which may be passed down to the local authorities.”
The report also warns of cuts in government funding to tackle the problem.
It said: “Government funding to operate air quality monitoring equipment is no longer available, putting the capability to assess local air quality at risk.
“Funding from Public Health and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has enabled air quality monitoring to continue at least for the next three years, albeit at a reduced level.”
Public health bosses have urged people to take advice on air quality if they have breathing problems.
Dr Andrew Furber, director of Public Health at Wakefield Council said: “Parts of the Wakefield district have higher than average levels of air pollution, because of the close proximity of three major motorways, the M1, M62, and the A1, which carry high volumes of traffic.
“For this reason air quality in the Wakefield area is mainly associated with vehicle exhaust emissions, with diesel exhaust emissions contributing most in areas where air quality is poor.
“People who are especially vulnerable to poor air quality, such as those with breathing or heart conditions should have a health action plan in place, to cope with times when air quality is forecasted to be poor.
“We regularly monitor the quality of air in our district. Tackling pollution is a long term issue which local, national and international governments are working on to tackle.
“But residents can help reduce emissions, by choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport.
“They can also consider changing cars for low emission vehicles.”