Oxford has had a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution - with council data indicating low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and zero emission zones (ZEZ) have had success. 

Data from Oxford City Council has found that during 2023, overall nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in Oxford decreased by 14 per cent on average on 2022 levels, and 33 per cent on pre-pandemic (2019) levels.

In Oxford, there are two annual mean targets for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution: the national legal limit, the concentration not to exceed 40 µg/m3, and Oxford’s own voluntary local annual mean target for NO2 of 30 µg/m3 - and many sites fell below both targets.

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The latest data reveals only two of 128 locations surpassed the national legal limit with nine sites above Oxford's goal. 

Oxford was also in compliance with the UK’s legal limit for NO2 in all areas of ‘relevant exposure’ within the city including places where the public is likely to spend time regularly, such as residential areas, the city centre, and areas with pedestrians.

The full air pollution report is available to view here for more details.

Why monitor air pollution?

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is measured in micrograms in each cubic metre of air (µg/m3), with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that around seven million deaths each year are linked with air pollution. 

Air pollution is now estimated to be competing with other major global health risks such as an unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking.  

In 2021, the WHO published new guidelines which recommended stricter limits on the ‘safe’ level of air pollution, including NO2 and PM2.5 - particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres - advising that there is no level at which pollutants stop causing damage.  

 The 10 Oxford sites with the most air pollution.The 10 Oxford sites with the most air pollution. (Image: Oxford City Council)

Drop of 14 per cent in nitrogen dioxide levels 

Some of the highlights of the latest Oxford report include that the overall NO2 levels across the city have decreased by 14 per cent on average compared with 2022 levels.

This is a greater change than the nine per cent average reduction across the UK during 2023.

The two locations, of 128 local sites, which were found to be in breach of national restrictions were both located in areas with limited public exposure -  being busy roads away from residential or pedestrian areas.

Headington Hill measured a concentration of 53 µg/m3 which, while still 32 per cent over the legal target, represents a 24 per cent reduction compared to 2022 levels. 

The Southern Bypass - south of Botley Interchange was another pollution hotspot and measured a concentration of 42 µg/m3.

The latter location is being managed by Vale of the White Horse District Council as part of their Air Quality Action Plan. 

Nine sites also exceeded Oxford's lower target for nitrogen dioxide with St Aldates, St Clements, High Street, Holloway Road, Headington Hill and three sites on Oxford's ring road. 

This represents an improvement on 2022 figures when 18 sites were in breach.