Britain's most polluted street outside London is DEMOLISHED

Britain’s most polluted street outside London is DEMOLISHED: Row of 23 homes in Wales is flattened to muddy bank after residents were paid to leave because of toxic fumes being caused by 21,000 passing vehicles a day

  • A total of 23 terraced homes were flattened in South Wales due to choking fumes from traffic going up hill
  • Nitrogen dioxide levels in Crumlin breached WHO rules and recorded as the highest in the UK outside London 
  • Woodside Terrace has vanished and now all that remains is an empty muddy bank by a wooded mountainside

Britain’s most polluted street outside London has been completely demolished – because it was too dangerous to leave families living there.

The row of 23 terraced homes has been flattened after residents were paid to leave because of the toxic fumes caused by 21,000 vehicles queuing to get up a steep hill in South Wales. 

Woodside Terrace on Hafodyrynys Road has vanished and now all that remains of the once-bustling strip of family homes is an empty muddy bank next to a wooded mountainside.

The decision was made to knock down Woodside Terrace in Crumlin after nitrogen dioxide levels recorded in 2015 and 2016 breached world health rules.

The levels were recorded as the highest in the UK outside central London – and were caused by passing lorries and cars climbing the hill.

Those living on the street were paid to leave by the Welsh Government when their houses were bought above market prices in a £6m deal. 

Britain’s most polluted street outside London, seen here before demolition, has been completely demolished – because it was too dangerous to leave families living there

Woodside Terrace on Hafodyrynys Road has vanished and now all that remains of the once-bustling strip of family homes is an empty muddy bank next to a wooded mountainside. Pictured: Homes that are above the smog look down at the bank where the homes once stood 

The row of 23 terraced homes has been flattened after residents were paid to leave because of the toxic fumes caused by 21,000 vehicles queuing to get up a steep hill in South Wales. Pictured: The remains of the homes now – a muddy bank on the right

The street was known as ‘the most polluted in Wales’ and residents said thick black dust covered the walls and windows of the some of the houses, many feeling like prisoners in their own homes, according to WalesOnline. 

Neighbours now say it is emotional to pass by the empty land and see no trace of the former homes.

One woman said: ‘It’s sad driving past and seeing the houses gone.’

Another said: ‘I keep thinking of all the previous residents who had wonderful memories living there I’m sure.’

One man said: ‘I understand it being the most polluted street but it was still peoples homes. Not just a house.’


The levels were recorded as the highest in the UK outside central London – and were caused by passing lorries and cars climbing the hill. Neighbours now say it is emotional to pass by the empty land and see no trace of the former homes. Pictured: After and before

The street was known as ‘the most polluted in Wales’ and residents said thick black dust covered the walls and windows of the some of the houses, many feeling like prisoners in their own homes

Air pollution increases the risk of several conditions, including heart attack, stroke and diabetes

Emotional families returned to the street to watch the work begin to tear down their homes in October last year

What are the World Health Organisation guidelines on particulate matter? 

According to a WHO assessment of the burden of disease due to air pollution, more than 2 million premature deaths each year can be attributed to the effects of urban outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution (caused by the burning of solid fuels). 

  • The WHO guidelines suggest keeping an average concentration of PM2.5 under 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3), to prevent increased deaths.
  • The UK limit, based on European Union (EU) recommendations, is a yearly average of 25 µg/m3.

Across the UK levels of nitrogen dioxide still breach the rules today. 

And while particulate matter pollution is within legal limits, it is still above World Health Organisation guidelines and there is concern that it is not being brought below this. 

The WHO says that at eight-hour concentrations exceeding 240 µg/m3 , significant health effects are considered likely. Both healthy adults and asthmatics would be expected to experience significant reductions in lung function, as well as airway inflammation that would cause symptoms and alter performance. 

Emotional families returned to the street to watch the work begin to tear down their homes in October last year.

Martin Brown, 74, lived in the row for 50 years with his beloved wife Pat before he was finally moved out.

He said: ‘I don’t know how it has affected my health, but it’s worrying.

‘There are families who lived here, one in particular, a woman, told me her two children were having breathing problems. Is it linked? We don’t know.

‘I’ve got problems now with my eyes and I wonder if it is as a result of all of this.’

Bob Stebbings, 77, retuned to the street to watch the work begin after growing up there as a child.

He said: ‘I lived here for 23 years and it was my childhood home where I had the best childhood you could imagine.

‘When I heard they were coming down I wanted to come, for some closure really.

‘I’m very sad, it feels upsetting and I will feel sad not to see the house there anymore.

‘But I know it needs to happen.

‘It always was a smoke trap this place. When I lived here it was all coal fires and in the morning, when everyone lit their fires, you could see the air was blue. It held in here.’

Caerphilly County Borough Council had to postpone some of the work due to the pandemic.

Council leader Philippa Marsden said in October: ‘The council, along with the whole community, welcomes the start of these demolition works, which will finally address the long-standing air quality problems at this site.

‘We explored a number of options, but demolition of these properties will allow us to achieve air quality compliance in the shortest possible time frame.’

Traffic surveys revealed that up to 21,000 vehicles used the road every day

A canyon effect is created as the hills and road towards Torfaen and Monmouthshire making it difficult for the polluting particles to disperse

Some of the other homes nearby have not been destroyed as they were able to pass air quality tests – because they are raised a couple of metres from the ground, according to Wales Online

Revealed: MailOnline dissects the impact greenhouse gases have on the planet – and what is being done to stop air pollution

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

Bob Stebbings, 77, who retuned to the street to watch the work begin after growing up there as a child

A canyon effect is created as the hills and road towards Torfaen and Monmouthshire making it difficult for the polluting particles to disperse. 

Traffic surveys revealed that up to 21,000 vehicles used the road every day.

Some of the other homes nearby have not been destroyed as they were able to pass air quality tests – because they are raised a couple of metres from the ground, according to Wales Online. 

Ms Marsden added: ‘It’s important that now we can open up the landscape here to allow the air to disperse which was obviously the problem we were facing.

‘The canyon effect meant that polluted air was hanging in the atmosphere and that was impacting residents so it was vitally important that we got this work under way.

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