Broader positive data behind the pollution near primary schools row

aerial river dawn

The revelation that a quarter of London’s primary schools are in areas that had dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide in 2010 is a deeply worrying statistic and led to accusations from the newly elected mayor, Sadiq Khan, that his predecessor, Boris Johnson, had buried a 2013 report.

It was commissioned by the Greater London Authority and its findings make alarming reading, especially for those living and working in inner London. More than 2.2 million people were exposed to level of NO₂ above the EU safe limit in 2010 and this included 137,000 children in 433 primary schools.

But the report also contained some surprisingly positive projections on the speed at which the exposure levels will fall by 2020. The projections were based on emissions data from the GLA and pollution mapping data from the Environmental Research Group at King’s College.  The report concluded that by the end of 2015 the population exposed to harmful levels of NO₂ will have fallen to just over a million and will drop significantly further by 2020 with air quality objectives achieved in outer London, at least.

Pollution population no2-2

NO₂ is particularly harmful to children and the report identified 433 schools, mostly in central London, where levels were unsafe in 2010 – the red dots on the map below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 19.56.37-2

From Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London

The situation is considerably better now, if the projections made by the researchers are correct. In 2010, 137,000 children aged 4-11 were affected but that should now be below 50,000. By 2020 the situation will improve further.

NO2 near primaries-2

The researchers also looked at pollution compared to deprivation levels, giving the report added political potency. They found that most of the schools with the highest levels of NO₂ were in districts with the highest levels of deprivation.

This is not due to any causal link between deprivation and pollution but due to the location of the schools near to very busy main roads. These areas may be home to more deprived families because property and rental costs are lower close to busy highways.

Many of the worst affected schools are in areas where poor people are resident but they’re also very close to where bankers and brokers work or where theatre-goers flock each evening – this is a central London problem. High nitrogen dioxide levels are bad for everyone, and as previously reported by Urbs, responsible for thousands of deaths.

There’s a lot of politics in this row over whether the bad news in the report was suppressed.  The new mayor is seeking to show himself as the new broom.  He has hit the ground running on the environment saying that he’ll extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone beyond the Congestion Charge area, as far as the North and South Circular roads, and he’ll introduce it early, in 2017.  Drivers of polluting vehicles will face an extra charge for entering the zone.

As the ‘buried’ report shows, London has a big pollution problem but is heading in the right direction. The task for the mayor will be balancing that progress with the economic growth of the capital as more jobs and people add to the environmental challenge.

Source data

See also

Don’t just blame drivers for harmful NO2 pollution

Election Issues: Balancing economic success with green ambitions

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

Tests suggest NO2 pollution levels may be higher at child height

Police taking a relaxed approach to ban on smoking in cars

Smoking-2The ban on smoking in cars when children are passengers is not being enforced in London.

The law was introduced on October 1st last year to protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke. It is illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying under 18s and both the driver and the smoker, if it’s a different person,  could face fines of £50.

But in response to a Freedom of Information request the Metropolitan Police has revealed that no fixed penalty fines have been issued.  The only incident recorded in the past 5 months was a person given a verbal warning when seen smoking in a car carrying a child on Westminster Bridge.

Anti-smoking campaigners have called for the new law to be enforced.  The Met says that the Department of Health and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have suggested that a period of education is needed before it starts issuing fines.

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Fuel consumption down but scale of diesel use remains a worry for health

Cab speeds past-2The amount of fuel consumed by vehicles on the roads of London has fallen by nearly a third over the past 10 years.

The biggest reduction has been in personal travel, which includes cars, motorbikes and buses. Fuel usage in these types of transport is down by 31%.  The reduction for freight transport, which includes vans and lorries, is down by 22%. Personal travel accounts for 2½ times the fuel consumed by freight.

As previously reported by Urbs, traffic volumes have gone down by about 7% since 2004 despite a rising population. But the reduction in fuel consumption can also be attributed to better fuel economy for vehicles.

The estimates are based upon data modelling by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and it shows that fuel consumption, like car ownership, is highest in the outer boroughs, particularly those north of the river, such as Enfield, Barnet and Havering. The highest consumption level is in Hillingdon.

Fuel consumption

The estimates look at where fuel is consumed rather than where it was bought so areas with large arterial roads are likely to have higher consumption levels – the M4 running out through Hillingdon or the M1 in Barnet, for example.

The reduction in consumption is good news environmentally but the data reveals a statistic which is having an impact on the city’s air quality – the shift from petrol to diesel cars. In 2004 consumption of diesel was about 20% of the consumption level for petrol. By 2013 it was 67%.

Diesel engines were promoted by the government as they produce lower levels of emissions that contribute to climate change, but they produce higher levels of N02.  Recent research by Kings College found that NO2 is having a far more harmful impact on health than had been previously recognised and responsible for nearly 6,000 deaths a year.

Source data

See also

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

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Don’t just blame drivers for harmful NO2 pollution

Bishopsgate-2Central London has a particular problem with potentially deadly air pollution caused by nitrogen dioxide, but it is not all the fault of drivers with diesel cars. Buses and buildings are also playing a significant part.

Transport is the largest single factor in the production of harmful NO2 and the finger is often pointed at cars with diesel engines. These type of vehicles make up 50% of all new sales in the UK and the switch away from petrol, encouraged by the Government, has had some benefit for other types of emissions.

But data analysis by the think tank Policy Exchange on the sources of NO2 in London shows that diesel cars are only part of the story and the figures for Central London are different to that for Greater London as a whole.

Nearly every borough is failing to meet the legal limit for levels of NO2. Long term exposure to high levels can lead to respiratory disease and a recent study by Kings College London, reported by Urbs, estimated that it may be killing 5,800 people a year.

Transport is responsible for 45% of NO2 emission across Greater London. Diesel vehicles including cars, taxis, buses and HGVs account for most of this, with 11% attriibuted to diesel cars, the same as HGVs.

NO2 Greater London


The figures for Central London reveal a similar rate of NO2 from transport, but the nature of traffic in the centre of the city means that busess account for 3 times the amount of NO2 produced by diesel cars.

NO2 Central London

The other significantly different factor in Central London is the NO2 emission rate from non-domestic burning of gas, ie powering the offices, shops and businesses. This accounts for a third of NO2 emissions in Central London compared to 8% for Greater London.

The recent Volkswagen emission test scandal has led to renewed concern about the real level of diesel car pollution. But this data shows that while cleaner cars are needed the capital also needs a greener bus service and more energy efficient buidlings to tackle the problem of NO2 more widely.

Up in the Air report, Policy Exchange

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Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

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Motorists pay £235 million in parking fines but number of tickets is falling

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Photo: Stocksolutions ┃

The number of parking tickets issued in London went down by 6% last year but motorists across the city still forked out £235 million in fines.

There were 3.82 million penalty charge notices stuck on windscreens for on-street parking offences in the financial year 2014/15. In 2006/07 it was over 5 million.

Lambeth and Haringey make the most money from parking tickets. Both boroughs have penalty charge incomes of £18 million, according to their returns to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Their neighbours make a fraction of that, £8 million in Brent and £3 million in Southwark.

Westminster, which has larger traffic flows than Haringey and Lambeth, made £17.6 million from penalty charge notices.

Parking fines map

Motorist may feel that they are hunted by uniformed parking wardens, but the number of tickets issued and the resulting fines has been falling over successive years. Traffic volumes in London are on a downward trend but went up marginally last year due to increases in eastern areas. Traffic volumes in central areas, where the demand for parking is highest, have fallen, as reported by Urbs.

Parking fines income

Parking is big business in London. It generated £582 million for the councils in 2014/15, according to their own figures, analysed by the motoring charity, the RAC Foundation. That’s 40% of all the parking income for the UK, yet London has just 10% of the cars.

Westminster heads the table with £74 million, but its parking income has dropped in the past 12 months along with the other top earners, Kensington and Chelsea and Camden.

Parking total income

After costs are taken out London councils had a surplus of £308 million from parking. By law that money has to be re-invested in transport and environmental projects. Across the UK the surplus from parking represents 15% of the expenditure on local transport.

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See also

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London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

traffic jamTraffic volumes in London have gone down by 7% over the past 10 years despite a rising population in that period.

But the figures for overall decline mask a more complex localised picture with sharp falls in central areas and traffic increasing in the some outer eastern boroughs.

Traffic volume is measured through traffic flow, a calculation of the total number of kilometres covered by all vehicles. The calculations are done by the Department of Transport using data from the National Road Traffic Survey.

The significant decline in traffic flow is unique to London as only 3 other regions have seen modest falls and most have seen a growth.

Traffic flow change

The reduction is due to a 9% fall in car traffic while flows of other vehicles have increased by 2%. This reduced reliance on cars is in line with the falling ownership figures, particularly in central areas, as reported by Urbs.

The reduction in traffic flows is a long-term trend that has been steady since 1999 and does not appear to have been affected by the introduction of the congestion charge.

Traffic flow trend

But last year saw a slight reversal with all vehicle flows up by 2%. Growing car traffic in East London played a part in this with increases of 10% in Waltham Forest and 6% in Redbridge.

Looking at the figures over 10 years, Redbridge along with Barking and Dagenham have seen the biggest increase in traffic flow, but the numbers are up across a swathe on North East London.

Traffic flows map

Elsewhere the numbers are falling with big declines in central areas led by 22% in Camden, but significant falls in outer areas such as 12% in Sutton and 11% in Croydon.

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Tests suggest NO2 pollution levels may be higher at child height

Pollution cars 2Levels of damaging nitrogen dioxide may be higher than official readings show and may be much at much higher levels at child or buggy height, according to a cycling campaign group.

HFcyclists, a campaign group based in Hammersmith and Fulham decided to take their own NO2 readings around the Hammersmith gyratory system and Shepherd’s Bush Green. With the support of the environmental legal group ClientEarth they set up tubes to monitor NO2, which are produced particularly by diesel engines.

Official readings are taken at a height of 3 metres. They placed tubes at different heights at 2 locations. The campaign group found that readings were significantly higher closer to the ground – up to 30% higher at 0.5 metres, the height of a child in a buggy and 25% at 0.8 metres, the height of a pram or a small toddler


Graphic: HFcyclists/ClientEarth

All their readings were in excess of the EU regulatory limit. As reported by Urbs, all but 2 London boroughs are in breach of legal limits and a recent study by Kings College said that NO2 was responsible for 9,500 deaths a year. The same study found that the number NO2 related deaths in Hammersmith and Fulham was one of the lowest in the city.

HFcyclists acknowledge that their modest test over a two-month period earlier this year should be seen as no more than indicative and the proximity of the Hammersmith flyover may have affected the height distribution of NO2. They say that they will continue to monitor to obtain more robust data. But the results raise further concern about the effects of nitrogen dioxide levels in London, particularly for children.

Source data

See also

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

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Police identify the most ignored red light with 1,500 drivers caught on camera

Traffic_Light_red By Numb631 CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons-2

Photo: Traffic Light Red by Numb631┃Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

More people were caught driving through the traffic lights on red at the junction of Camberwell Church Street and Denmark Hill in Southwark than any other light in London.

Last year more 1,538 vehicles ran the light and were caught on camera by the police. The light jumpers included 917 cars, 143 vans, 38 lorries and 38 motorbikes and 15 buses. The offenders also included 387 emergency vehicles, which may be due to the proximity to Kings College Hospital.

If emergency vehicles are discounted, as they may have an understandable reason for going through a red traffic light, then the junction with the worst record is the Bath Road junction with The Avenue in Hounslow, West London.

This also saw a little over 1,500 offenders snapped by the automatic camera, but there were far fewer emergency vehicles. 1,149 cars ran this red light in 2014, joined by 101 vans, 27 lorries, 27 motorcycles, and 25 buses.

The data on the cameras catching most offenders is revealed by the Metropolitan Police in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

Of the top 10, 4 were in West London, 3 in South London and 3 in North London. East London drivers seem to be more law abiding in waiting for the lights to change.

Here are the 10 most ignored lights with links to Google Streetview if you care to check out the junctions where you should take extra care.

South London

 West London

North London

Most people caught on camera going through a red light are given a fixed penalty notice which results in a fine of £60 and 3 penalty points on their licence.

Source data

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Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

urban sunsetAir pollution is killing nearly 9,500 Londoners each year, more than twice the number previously thought.

The drastic increase is caused by the inclusion for the first time of numbers killed through long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, NO2, a pollutant largely blamed on diesel engines.

Experts from the Environmental Research Group at Kings College developed new methods to quantify the effects of NO2 in the study carried out for the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. It is thought to be the first study to capture NO2 related deaths.

Previous estimates were based on the damage caused by small particles in the air caused by pollution, so called PM2.5. A study in 2008 calculated these caused more than 4,000 deaths a year. The new study revises that figure down to 3,537, but the addition of 5,879 deaths attributed to NO2 has dramatically increased the estimated death rate.

As previously reported by Urbs, all but two London boroughs are in breach of EU regulation on NO2 levels. The outer boroughs of Sutton and Bromley were the only ones meeting legal limits last year. But this study, based on 2010 data, shows that Bromley had one of the highest rates of deaths caused by air pollution. Along with Barnet, it has the equal highest mortality numbers, followed by Croydon. These are 3 of the most populous boroughs in London, and they have the most cars.

As our map below shows, Sutton comes around mid range. The lowest estimated death rates are recorded for Kingston and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Air pollution deaths

The study also found that the combined effects of PM2.5 and NO2 were responsible for nearly 2,500 hospital admissions for respiratory problems and 740 for cardiovascular damage.

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Researchers based their findings on pollution levels from 2010 as it is the most recent base year data available from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory, the system set up to gather air pollution information on the capital.

The GLA says that as the data is 5 years old it does not take into account more recent measures to improve air quality, such as the introduction of more hybrid buses to replace diesel vehicles.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson,  has announced an Ultra Low Emission Zone for 2020 to reduce heavy lorries and coaches in the capital. And in releasing the data he called on the UK Government and the EU to do more, as the study says that half the pollution in London comes from outside, including diesel fumes and industry emissions from continental Europe.

The Mayor also used the opportunity to again voice his opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission.

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Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

Pollution carsNearly every London borough is failing to meet the legal limit set by the EU for a harmful, air polluting gas that that can be damaging to health.

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.

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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.

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