It took just 5 days for London to reach annual air pollution limit

6 Jan 2017

London traffic scene. Image: lazyllama/Shutterstock

Londoners might want to consider wearing an air filter mask, with news that the city’s annual air pollution has been met in the first five days of 2017.

The shocking findings compiled by the London Air group – a part of King’s College London –  has been described as “shameful” by campaigners fighting for greater environmental protection.

According to The Guardian, the highest amount of pollution was found on Brixton Road in the Lambeth area where, by law, there must not be more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide 18 times in a year.

Yet by Thursday, that limit had already been broken, sparking serious fears of health risks for the local population, as well as other areas of London.

Putney High Street was one of the worst affected areas for pollution in 2016, clocking up more than 1,200 breaches of its pollution limit, joining other worrisome spots like Chelsea and the Strand.

The city of more than 8.5m people has long been considered a trouble spot for pollution given its scale, much like any other major capital city, and has begun rolling out efforts to significantly reduce the amount of air pollution in the city.

One such measure was announced by the incumbent mayor of the city, Saqid Khan, who has promised to pledge nearly £900m over the course of the next five years to reduce the harm that leads to nearly 6,000 deaths annually in London.

‘Another shameful reminder’

In response to the data, a spokesperson for Khan said that the city will soon introduce 10 low emission bus lanes, but added that “this is not enough”.

“The government needs to match the mayor’s commitment to improving air quality as quickly as possible,” he added.

Prominent air quality campaigner Alan Andrews of ClientEarth – the group who sued the UK government for failing to provide a safe environment – described the findings as shameful.

“This is another shameful reminder of the severity of London’s air pollution and shows why the mayor has rightly made tackling it a top priority,” he said.

“It is absolutely essential that he now delivers on his promises and that the national government backs him to the hilt.”

One of the more interesting methods of air pollution monitoring has already gotten underway with Pigeon Air Patrol, an organisation using the city’s pigeons as flying air monitors.

London traffic scene. Image: lazyllama/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic