London Air Pollution Kills 9,500 People A Year

Nearly 9,500 people die early each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to new research.

The premature deaths are due to two key pollutants, fine particulates known as PM2.5s and the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2), according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London.

The study – which was commissioned by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London – is believed to be the first by any city in the world to attempt to quantify how many people are being harmed by NO2. The gas is largely created by diesel cars, lorries and buses, and affects lung capacity and growth.

London, Birmingham, and Leeds are among the UK cities that have been in breach of EU safety limits on NO2 for five years, prompting legal action that led to a supreme court ruling in April that the government must publish an clean-up plan by the end of the year.

Previous research attributed 4,267 annual premature deaths to PM2.5s in 2008, based on 2006 levels of the particulates. Subsequent falls in those particulates and a change in methodology that excludes natural sources of the pollutant sees that figure fall to 3,537 for 2010 levels of PM2.5s in the new study.

However that fall is more than cancelled out by the addition of an estimated 5,879 deaths from NO2 each year, bringing the total early deaths from both pollutants in 2010 to 9,416.

The report found that a larger proportion of deaths caused by PM2.5 were from particulates that originated outside the city than within it. These small particulates can travel 500 miles and are especially dangerous because they are small enough to get into the blood stream.

However, it found that most of the deaths linked to NO2 were because of NO2 emissions from diesel vehicles and other sources within the capital.

Last year, a King’s researcher published figures showing Oxford Street had the worst NO2 levels in the world, largely because of its high concentration of diesel buses. Does the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which supports the building of a polluting third runway, tell visitors about the potential damage to their health?

London is due to introduce an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in 2020 that will see the most polluting HGVs and coaches charged £100 to enter. While the mayor’s office says this is a world first, it is essentially allowing those who can afford to pollute to carry on regardless.

It is also spitting in the ocean if our Prime Minister gives the go ahead for a massive Heathrow expansion project with more flights, which will generate yet more road traffic.