Council chiefs have launched a new strategy in the fight for clean air in South Tyneside.
They plan to slash pollutants that can seriously damage health by working with a specialist focus group.
It will pool together experts in environmental health, transport, public health, planning and education – and lobby for project funding.
Latest figures reveal a mixed bag of health markers in relation to harmful substances in the air.
Intermittent roadside tests at 44 sites show levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)– a car exhaust killer – do not exceed the national annual average.
Permanent year-round tests for NO2 and PM10 - tiny particles 30 times smaller than the width of a hair - are also lower than the average nationwide.
But premature mortality rates for cardiovascular disease (CVD), respiratory diseases and cancer in the borough all exceed national levels.
Emergency admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also far higher, as are incidences of childhood asthma.
Evidence suggests high levels of NO2 can inflame the airways in lungs and affect how well they work, with asthma sufferers particularly hit.
South Tyneside Council said there was extensive evidence that long-term exposure to everyday air pollutants contributed to the development of CVD, lung cancer, and respiratory disease.
In a report, Wendy Surtees, Senior Public Health Advanced Practitioner, and Samantha Jobson, Environmental Health Officer, said action was needed.
Their report said: “Diseases that can be worsened by poor air quality emphasises the importance of continued monitoring of air quality to reduce the impact of air pollution on the health of our residents.
“It is clear a multi-agency approach is required to improve air quality. We need to ensure that there is ongoing collaborative working in an effort to improve air quality within South Tyneside.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has listed poor air quality as the largest environmental risk to health in the UK.
The total burden of outdoor air pollution has been estimated to be equal to 40,000 early deaths each year, making it the second largest cause of avoidable mortality after smoking.
In South Tyneside, continuous monitoring stations are at Boldon Lane, South Shields, Tyne Dock and Edinburgh Road, near the Lindisfarne roundabout.
The council has a duty to monitor air quality and report its findings annually to Defra.
It also says research has shown a recent £7.5m road improvement scheme at Lindisfarne roundabout has improved air quality by reducing congestion.
The new report links to the council’s existing Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017-21, a framework for commissioning NHS, social care, public health and other services.