PEOPLE living in parts of Sussex are inhaling air considered too dangerous to breathe by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a report has shown.

Brighton and Hove and Eastbourne are among 51 towns and cities listed in an air quality database as failing the WHO’s test for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns.

These have been linked to heart disease and premature death.

Exposure to the particles, known as PM2.5s, should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to the health organisation.

However, Brighton and Hove has an average annual rate of 11 and Eastbourne is even higher at 15, putting it on the same level as London.

The report said European Union air quality guidelines are less stringent than those of the WHO, but the health organisation’s limits represented a “safer threshold”.

Each year, outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths in the UK and cost the country £22.6 billion.

Eastbourne also broke the WHO limits for PM10s, slightly larger sooty specks considered less of a hazard than ultra-fine particles but still harmful to health.

In some cases particles drift in from other areas because of air currents, which can have an effect on readings.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “This is one reason why we’re promoting sustainable transport such as cycling and walking.

“Local monitors record a long term improvement in pollution levels across Brighton and Hove.

“The WHO guideline for these particles is met across the majority of the city.

“The tiny particles travel across regional boundaries.

“In contrast, nitrogen dioxide in the environment is mainly emitted from local traffic.

“The EU limit and WHO guidelines for nitrogen dioxide are met across most residential areas, with levels exceeded adjacent to roads and junctions.

“People can help improve local air quality by turning off car engines when stationary for more than a minute.”