THE deaths of almost 150 Sunderland people in one year are believed to be linked to air pollution, according to health officials.
The shocking estimate was published in a report by Public Health England (PHE).
It said long-term exposure to air pollution led to around 25,000 deaths of people aged over 25 in England back in 2010.
The estimate for Sunderland is the equivalent to 1,477 lost years of life.
In County Durham there were 223 deaths and in Stockton there were 84. The highest number of deaths linked to air pollution were recorded in the South East of England at 4,034 followed by the North West with 3,427.
A total of 1,199 North East people are thought to have died because of the problem.
Friends of the Earth Campaigner Simon Bowens said: “It’s a scandal that thousands of people die prematurely in our region every year because of polluted air.
“Ending this national disgrace should be a top priority for politicians. Tougher measures are needed to tackle the causes of our dirty air, especially traffic pollution.
“Ministers and local authorities must develop an urgent action plan to introduce cleaner vehicles and encourage the use of alternative forms of transport – people won’t be able to breathe easily until they do.”
The PHE say that UK air quality has improved considerably in recent decades due to new cleaner technology.