William Eichler 05 October 2017

Londoners exposed to ‘dangerous’ levels of toxic air

People living in the capital are exposed to ‘dangerous’ levels of toxic air particles, warns Sadiq Khan.

Research based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory has revealed that London exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the dangerous toxic particles known as PM2.5.

Released yesterday by Mr Khan as he signed the capital up to the Breathe Life coalition — a global initiative to improve air quality in cities —, the research also revealed that 95% of the capital’s population live in areas that exceed WHO guidelines by 50% or more.

PM2.5 are small toxic air particles which are widely acknowledged to have the greatest impact on health with both short and long-term exposure increasing the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Around half of PM2.5 in London is from external sources, but the main sources of emissions in the capital are from tyre and brake wear, construction and wood burning. PM2.5 causes 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

Mr Khan said he was doing everything in his power to reduce toxic emissions and he called on the Government to devolve more powers so he could tackle it more effectively.

‘We should be ashamed that our young people – the next generation of Londoners – are being exposed to these tiny particles of toxic dust that are seriously damaging their lungs and shortening their life expectancy,’ he said.

‘I understand this is really difficult for Londoners, but that’s why I felt it was so important that I made this information public so people really understand the scale of the challenge we face in London.

‘I am doing everything in my powers to significantly reduce NOx emissions by introducing the T-Charge to drive down the number of dirty vehicles polluting our roads and our lungs and implementing an Ultra Low Emission Zone with even tighter standards.

‘I also urge the government to devolve powers to me so I can get on with tackling the dangerous toxic air particles – known as PM2.5 – that we know come from construction sites and wood burning stoves. It’s measures like these that we need to get on with now to protect our children and our children’s children.’

Responding to the findings, Ben Rogers, director of Centre for London said: ‘London is choking on its own emissions. This new research highlights that current policy needs to do more to tackle non-tailpipe emissions, which significantly contribute to the unacceptable levels of particulate matter pollution.

‘There is mounting evidence that suggests we're underestimating  the harm done by this type of emissions. Their health impacts are felt even at extremely small concentrations (and well below EU legal limits).’

Mr Rogers called on Whitehall to encourage research and development into safer tyre, brake and surface materials.

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