The Environment Minister Rory Stewart has revealed that only the outer boroughs of Sutton and Bromley have levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) within the regulation limits considered safe for public health.
Exposure to high levels of NO2 can lead to respiratory disease. Road transport is the largest source of NO2 in London, particularly diesel vehicles. While levels fell in the years to 2002 they have remained relatively constant since then, according to the State of the Environment report for London. It says that: “Urban background concentrations of NO2 in inner London, and at roadside locations, have exceeded the annual limit value since 2000. Concentrations close to busy roads can be 2-3 times the limit value”.
The GLA has set up special monitoring at 187 focus sites across the capital where levels of NO2 are not only high but where there is a particular risk to health.
A reduction in car journeys has helped with public transport used for 42% of journey is 2010 compared to 34% in 2000. But the population increase in London has led to increased demand on public transport and diesel-powered buses are among the worse offenders.
The data revealed by the Minister is from 2013 and borough level data for 2014 will be available in September. But the all London average monthly figures for roadside levels of NO2 show the EU limit of for 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air has been exceeded throughout 2014 and 2015..
In his written answer Mr Stewart also reveals that levels of small particle pollution, PM2.5 as it is known, was being met in 26 boroughs but Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Ealing, Tower Hamlets, Camden and Brent were all exceeding EU limits. Small particle pollution is considered to be particularly harmful to health.
While the data for London is poor many other major cities are facing similar, if not more severe problems with air quality and harmful pollutants. As previously reported by Urbs, in a comparative study London was not the best but fared better than some cities.