I lived for a year or two in the heart of the roaring Kings Cross gyratory on the Cally Road. It was an early-Victorian flat with poor insulation and bad secondary glazing. The amount of fine black dust that would come into the flat was extraordinary. It was generated by the passing traffic. Amongst this dust was undoubtedly PM10 – the finest dust caused by tyre and brake abrasion and associated with a range of health problems amongst the young and the old. A 2010 report for the Mayor said that over 4,000 early deaths were caused by long term exposure to air pollution:
It is widely accepted by the medical and scientific communities that there is a link between exposure to air pollution and the effects on health. These effects can vary in severity including mortality (death) and morbidity (the occurrence of illnesses throughout a life time). The evidence base from scientific studies shows that increased levels of fine particles in the air can increase risks of death. Increased exposure to particulates aggravates respiratory and cardio vascular conditions and research has shown that these particles can be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract.
The UK is in a lot of trouble with the EU for not taking measures to reduce PM10 pollution. I finally got around to researching the 'dust supressant' trial advertised by the large yellow signs at Kings Cross. TfL says:
'The dust suppressant is a solution made up of Calcium Magnesium Acetate that literally sticks the particulate matter to the carriageway and prevents it re-circulating in the air. It is a biodegradable saline solution that will be sprayed in very small amounts, evenly on roads in the two trial sites.
'As part of the trial the carriageway is first swept and jetwashed by a machine similar to a road dust sweeper and then the solution is applied by a modified winter gritting machine that has a very fine sprinkler-like system attached to it. It will be applied several times a week as deemed necessary in the early hours. The trial will last for six months and is hoped to reduce PM10 where it is used by 10-20 per cent.
The two sites being treated under the trial are:
* A3211, from Waterloo Bridge through Victoria Embankment, Upper Thames Street ending at Tower Hill; and
* A501, Marylebone Road and Euston Road from the A5 Edgware Road to York Way at King’s Cross station.'
Whilst this is welcome it does feel a bit like lipstick on a pig – the real underlying issue is the sheer volume of traffic on the arterial routes through Kings Cross. Reduce that and pollution comes down, noise comes down, pedestrian safety goes up and the area overall becomes more attractive.
TfLs general subservience to the car and its predominance over pedestrains on these arterial routes has been the bain of local campaigners trying to improve the street scene. TfL and Mayoral staff should be simply made to spend two rush hours walking on the streets around Kings Cross repeatedly crossing the roads near the station in different directions, preferably in the rain and dark with a baby buggy or luggage. Then they would soon sort it out.
Anyway let's see how the trial goes. Has anyone noticed a difference yet? Will put in an FOI request.