Fresh reports highlight London’s efforts to deal with growing air quality problems and reduce air pollution-related deaths

St.Pauls London

In July, King’s College of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) released two reports commenting on the negative health impacts of air pollution in London and the Mayor’s on-going efforts and progress to deal with the city’s air quality problems.

Estimated 9,400 deaths from long-term exposure to NO2 and PM2.5

For the first time in the world, King’s College London, commissioned by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, has used emerging techniques to calculate the health impacts associated with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in London. This new study shows that in 2010 there was the equivalent of up to 5,900 deaths across London associated with long-term exposure to NO2*.

At the same time, deaths associated with long-term exposure to PM2.5 were recalculated from 4,300 (in 2008 based on 2006 concentrations) to 3,500 (in 2010). The PM2.5 and NO2 figures can be combined to create a total figure of up to 9,400 equivalent deaths in 2010*.

Mayor’s air quality strategy shows progress in reducing air pollution

The highlight of this year’s report from the GLA confirms the Mayor’s proposals for the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London from 2020.

London is currently the only city in the world to propose a low-emission zone based around the new Euro 6 emission standard that will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by half and ensure 80 percent of central London meets tough European legal limits for NO2.

Other proposed efforts include the introduction of the capital’s first ever age limit for taxis to retire more than 6,000 of the most polluting vehicles, and from 2018, a proposal that all new taxis will be required to be zero emission-capable, with more than 9,000 expected to be on London’s streets by 2020.

The trend analysis in the report shows that measures are starting to be felt, with an estimated 12 percent reduction in NO2 concentrations at London roadside sites since 2008.

Importance of coordinated national and European action

The GLA report notes that the health effects associated with long-term exposure to air pollution in the capital would continue to be felt even if all local emissions sources in London were successfully removed by nearly half. On top of this, almost two-thirds of the health effects due to short-term exposure – such as deaths brought forward and hospital admissions – would continue. This underlines the importance of coordinated national and European action to tackle sources of pollution to properly address transboundary effects, the report states.

Image copyright ©Simon Birkett, Clean air in London

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