YORK has been named as one of the most polluted cities in the country in a report by the World Health Organisation.

Research showed the city has the same level of fine particle pollutants, known as PM2.5, as Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool.

The tiny particles, from sources including transport, industry and burning wood, are linked to medical conditions including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and disease, and respiratory infections.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) researchers said a level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre was the recommended limit, but levels of 12 micrograms were recorded in York in 2015.

However, City of York Council questioned the figures, saying the concentration of PM2.5 at three sites has fallen since 2013.

While the level of particulates recorded by the WHO in Leeds and Sheffield fell between 2013 and 2015, in York the level increased from 11 micrograms per cubic metre in the air in 2013 to 12 in 2015.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, leader of the Green Party group in City of York Council and councillor for Fishergate Ward, has called for more to be done to tackle the problem, including putting up signs to urge drivers stuck in traffic to turn off their engines.

He said: “Pollution is a worry and a risk for vulnerable people who may have chest complaints or other illnesses. It can be deadly if it gets into the lungs.

"The hotspots are usually in quite enclosed areas. Standing traffic is an issue I’m very concerned about.

“There were plans to establish an anti-idling strategy, with bus drivers turning their engines off while they wait in traffic. But we still haven’t got a policy in place.”

He said he proposed putting signs up on the inner ring road but was told by the council that it would “put tourists off”.

Cllr D’Agorne is now calling for anti-idling signs to be put in place ahead of Clean Air Day on June 21 and for the council to launch a clean air policy.

He added that while Sheffield and Leeds are launching large “clean air zones”, not enough has been done to tackle the issue in York.

Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for the environment at City of York Council, said: “Our sustained work on combating air pollution has resulted in a trend of air quality improving over recent years. However we recognise that we can do more.

"This is why soon we will be consulting on clean air zones in the city soon.

"We deliberately place real time monitoring in the hot spots, and so this ensures that we are able to make the case to Government for support to overcome air quality issues.”

He said plans are in place to convert 15 per cent of taxis from diesel to electric hybrids and for the introduction of 11 electric park and ride buses, with £816,000 awarded to the council from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles to install a network of charging hubs.