World Air Quality Index map ranks Port Talbot, Wales as worst in world

7 Apr 2016

A global map that measures the air quality index of sites across the globe has ranked Port Talbot, the Welsh town that is the site of the Tata Steel mill where thousands of jobs are being threatened, as having the highest air pollution in the world.

Port Talbot has found itself in the centre of one of the biggest jobs crises in the UK of the last few decades with the announcement that the parent company of the Tata Steel mill that employs many in the town has put the company up for sale.

While it is not its only operation in the UK, the Port Talbot steel mill is by far one of the largest steel mills of the Tata Steel group, and one of the largest in the UK.

Figures make grim reading

The World Air Quality Index map, which charts close to real-time air quality sensors across many parts of the globe, shows that Port Talbot has the highest air pollution levels of any it is recording, currently sitting at 583 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air).

Port Talbot map

Port Talbot (centre) and surrounding major urban centres in southern Wales

Compare this with the current high (at the time of writing) of 338 µg/m3 in the Chinese city of Weifang and you realise that readings of that scale would constitute a serious health hazard, especially considering that the Air Quality Index says that anything more than 300 µg/m3 is considered a major health hazard.

Despite these grim readings, it appears efforts were being made by Tata Steel and researchers in Wales to improve the environmental situation at its plant, with news of a joint project between the company and Swansea University to develop carbon recycling technology for the plant.

Also, interestingly, given that the production of cheap steel by China is being blamed for the demise of Tata Steel, was the announcement last October that the Chinese government was to build a biomass power plant in the region, as well as an eco-park development valued at £2bn.

Using the internet of things (IoT) to measure air quality levels in urban areas has become one of its key uses. On, we recently covered news of a group that will use pigeons equipped with sensors to monitor air quality in London.

Port Talbot steel plant image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic