Air pollution on the up - but which nations are the dirtiest?

A general view of traffic on Dublin's College Green as traffic management, congestion and public safety at College Green was discussed at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Air pollution has been a hot-button issue for the UK, with Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal the spark that started a still-raging war against private cars and diesel vehicles in particular. And it's easy to see why – with toxic nitrogen oxide emissions contributing to poor health and air quality in crowded cities, a move to cleaner modes of transport may be long overdue.

But the UK is far from the worst offender in Europe. A new map, produced by clean energy company The Eco Experts has revealed that Blighty isn't even in the top ten most polluted countries in Europe – coming in 18th of 25 nations surveyed.

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The study took several factors into account. The proportion of alternatively-fuelled vehicles was calculated, along with average vehicle age and the number of cars per 1,000 people. Ambient air pollution was also taken from official measurements.

The podium was taken by central and eastern European countries. The Czech Republic came in first place. Although it's the home of Skoda - a brand that produces many brilliant new vehicles - the Czech Republic was found to have a high volume of old and polluting vehicles. The average age of a car in the country is 14.5 years, compared to just eight years in the UK.

The Czech Republic also had very few alternatively-fuelled vehicles – just 0.7 per cent of cars registered – and high levels of ambient air pollution, leading to its position at the top of the charts.

Second place went to neighbouring Poland, while third place was taken by Estonia.

The UK languished way down the charts in 18th place – below countries such as Spain, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France and even Germany.

Unsurprisingly, Sweden took the top gong while green and pleasant Ireland came next-to-last.

Fran Whittaker-Wood from The Eco Experts said: "Road transport is one of the biggest sources of air pollution and although our research shows that poor quality vehicles is the biggest contributing factor to toxic driving emissions, the reality is that most people can't afford to replace their cars with sustainable alternatives because they are just too expensive.

"If governments are serious about cutting driver pollution levels then more needs to be done to make these cars affordable to everyone."

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