0854 GMT January 15, 2021
The environmental group has analyzed the latest data on air pollution from English local authorities' air quality annual status reports submitted to the government, somersetlive.co.uk reported.
Friends of the Earth said 1,360 monitoring sites across the country exceeded the annual average air quality target of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air for nitrogen dioxide in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.
In some spots, the annual average was more than double the level set to protect health from long-term exposure to pollution, the analysis shows.
Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant which mostly comes from traffic fumes and, along with other pollution such as particulate matter, is linked to health issues such as lung and respiratory diseases and early deaths.
Friends of the Earth wants to see polluting vehicles — which also contribute carbon emissions that are warming the planet — removed from the roads and transport cleaned up.
Simon Bowens, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said failing to fix air pollution costs lives and showed a failure to address the climate crisis.
"If ministers want to avoid a return to the health-damaging and illegal levels of air pollution we had before lockdown, their enthusiasm for 'active travel' needs to be a permanent switch and not just a short-term gap plugger.
"The government must also end its damaging fixation on building more roads.
"You can't justify this by planning to phase out polluting petrol and diesel vehicles and replace them with electric ones.
"We need to go much further than just getting out of one type of car and into another.
"Investment in better cycling and walking should be part of a fair and green post-coronavirus economic recovery plan aimed at creating a cleaner, fairer future," he urged.
There has been an improvement since last year's audit by the green group, which saw 1,591 sites exceed the annual target.