Thousands of runners who took to the streets in Newcastle for the Great North Run helped reduce air pollution by 80%, a new study has found.

Research from Newcastle University and Great Run Series sponsor ENGIE reveals that nitrogen dioxide – one of the main air quality contaminants – decreased by 80% on the day of the run compared to the same time period two weeks earlier. It also revealed that particle matter, which comes from emissions in exhausts and brakes, decreased by 77% during the same time period.

The Great North Run sees several miles of roads closed to traffic, including the Tyne Bridge which carries thousands of vehicles across the River Tyne every day.

Phil James, Professor of Urban Data at Newcastle University, said: “The research clearly shows a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide and particle matter – two common pollutants associated with cars.

“You can’t always see these pollutants, so it’s easy to forget how damaging they can be. Air pollution has been linked to health problems and breathing difficulties such as asthma, and it’s something everyone should be aware of as it affects people of all ages.”

ENGIE, in partnership with Global Action Plan, launched the Clean Van Commitment in 2018 and has pledged a 20% electric fleet by 2020 – with a longer-term aim of zero diesel vehicles by 2025.

Nicola Lovett, CEO of ENGIE UK and Ireland, said: “This study shows just how much vehicles contribute towards air pollution. At ENGIE we’re dedicated to helping improve air quality and carbon reduction to ensure the best quality of life for our customers and communities.

“We want to lead the way when it comes to green mobility and air quality solutions, and committing to clean vans in our fleet is just one example of how we’re striving to improve people’s living and working environments.

“ENGIE works across many towns and cities across the UK including Newcastle, which is home to our award-winning Shared Service Centre, and switching our fleet to EVs will have a positive impact on the communities we serve and where our drivers work and live.”

Larissa Lockwood, Head of Health and Air Quality at Global Action Plan said: “Air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk we face today, causing heart and lung disease and responsible for up to 36,000 UK deaths a year.

“Collective action to tackle our dirty air can make a massive difference, as shown when the roads were closed for the Great North Run and pollution levels plummeted. Imagine if more people left the car at home every day. We would suffer far fewer health problems from air pollution.”

Paul Foster, Chief Executive of the Great Run Company said: “It’s incredible to see the effect the Great North Run has on reducing air pollutants in the city on the day of the event.

“We aim to encourage everyone to live more active lives. As run and cycle commutes become increasingly popular, we hope training for our events will inspire more people to incorporate activity into their daily routines and in doing so have a positive impact on the overall health of our Great Run cities across the country.”

Newcastle University collected data from a precision sensor located at the Tyne Bridge. Figures are taken from the same time period on Sunday 25th August and Sunday 8th September 2019. The data was obtained between 10am and 11am and averaged over the time of the run. To view the data please visit