Clean air in London

Airpollution Modern air pollution isn't as visible as the old pea-soupers, but it is just as insidious.  In areas like Kings Cross with insane road traffic levels, constrcution trafffic, long taxi ranks, bus stands and plenty of diesel trains air pollution is one of the most serious threats to health. I lived for a couple of years in a flat in the Kings Cross gyratory when it was all I could afford.  The traffic dust and fumes were horrible. I reject the majority of campaign stuff that gets sent to me at this website as alarmist or partisan, but I am convinced there is a major long term issue here.

The guys over at Campaign for Clean Air in London have been running a great campaign and it's well worth checking out their site and resources.  Their work identifying schools within 150m of roads carrying over 10,000 vehicles a day is particulalry good/worrying.  The campaign suggests the current and previous governments local and national aren't doing enough to keep up to international standards and there are some unpalatable issues for diesel public transport – taxis and buses.  The Campaign for Clean Air in London's Autumn update says

'Air pollution is rocketing up the public, media and political agenda in London and more widely. By Easter this year, London had already breached the number of ‘Bad Air Days’ for dangerous airborne particles allowed for a whole year. The standard has been in legislation since 1999 and required to be met since January 2005. 

The Mayor is correct to say – when comparing the public health risk with alcoholism, obesity and smoking – there were 4,267 deaths in London in 2008 attributable to long term exposure to fine particles at an average additional loss of life of 11.5 years. However, Clean Air in London (CAL) has found that this is a pure number, calculated after eliminating up to 40 other possible causes of death. It is more likely, in practice, air pollution may have contributed to all 15,800 deaths due to cardiovascular causes (i.e. one in three of all deaths) in London [in 2009] at an average additional loss of life of around three years for these people. Either way, this is as many early deaths as we thought occurred due to short-term exposure during the Great Smog of 1952 (when the impacts of long-term exposure were unknown). 

It is not just older people though who are at risk. Earlier this year, CAL published a list – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – of 1,148 schools and other educational places within 150 metres of roads carrying over 10,000 vehicles a day after discovering new scientific research that traffic-related air pollution from such roads could be responsible for up to 30% of all new cases of asthma in children. This is a public health crisis and far too little is being done to tackle it. '

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Bad Gyrations KX Campaign, Community Health and Welfare. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Clean air in London

  1. Dr.S.Prokop says:

    The long dispute about whether cycling in London’s air is good for you seems to be being resolved.As with other activities, like running, doing it in polluted air does you more harm than good.

    It really isn’t rocket science…excercise increases lung air throughput by twenty times…so they will be exposed to much more of whatever’s about…PM 0.18’s,NOXES and O3.

    Being puit into the front line of any clean air policy is a crazy place for cyclists to be…the ultrafines are simply not filtered out by masks,and the damage can be permanent.

  2. Clare Hill says:

    I noticed the other day the sign seems to have been taken down. Does that mean the trial is over?

    As for the new findings in the BBC story above, probably another reason, as if another were needed, not to ride on big busy roads like Euston Road. It also doesn’t categorically say that it does more harm than good to cycle in polluted air. It just says that cyclists breathe in more black soot, which of course has health implications.

    The jury’s out on several aspects of this, but I still feel I’m breathing in less pollution as a cyclist on a quieter road than as a bus passenger in a traffic jam, or a tube passenger.

  3. @ Dr Prokop: whilst I could not quote you the articles now, I have actually looked into the issue of cycling in traffic when I studied post-grad level exercise science 10 years ago. Not neglecting new evidence, I found from my readings of peer reviewed science journals in the field, that the benefits from urban cycling still outweighed the downsides. Those of you with university journal access could do a re-research of all the new articles on this the topic, but I doubt that overall it would have changed. On the other hand when it came to impact on professional every day drivers who would not engage in cardio vascular activity and whose position more directly exposed them to the exhaust fumes there is undeniable evidence of detrimental effects. I remember particular studies also on London Bus drivers. Luckily with increasingly modern engines and the slow but certain disappearance of carbon burning engines this will become better over time.

    @William, but do you have more knowledge about this sign and its meaning?

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