City Smog: London’s Filthy Air

Over the past week, London’s air has been breaking records. As you might suspect, the new records are not particularly desirable.

With temperatures dropping and winds dying down, the levels of nitrogen dioxide and soot in the air soared. On several occasions over the past week levels of pollution in the capital have been worse than Beijing, which is known for its poor quality of air. For the first time ever, London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a ‘very high’ pollution alert.

One location in Lambeth was among the first to breach air pollution limits. Brixton Road broke limits just 120 hours into the New Year. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has promised to double funding to £875 million over the next 5 years to help tackle the issue. He has also committed to expanding the ultra-low emission zone and running the cleanest buses on the most polluted routes.

One Brixton resident Alan Andrews, a lawyer for ClientEarth, says “we need immediate action to cut pollution in the short term and protect Londoners’ health”.

Clearly London’s air is high on the mayor’s list of priorities as he recently tweeted about “The shameful state of London’s toxic air”. In spite of his efforts many believe much more is needed to be done to combat what has been described by MPs as “a public health emergency”.

Pollution in London of course is nothing new; the city has breached EU air quality regulations every year since 2010. Under EU law, the average hourly emission of NO2 should not surpass 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times each year. This year the City managed to do so in just 5 days. According to The Guardian, 24 different locations around the capital reached the maximum measurable level of air pollution which is more than double the legal limit.

It’s estimated that nearly 4 million people work in areas of London that are above legal pollution levels. London’s toxic air is believed to be responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths per year and a further 30,000 across the UK. It is said that it costs the government nearly £30 billion every year.


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