Revealed: Every Londoner is exposed to dangerous toxic air particles
- Mayor releases new research and map showing every area of London exceeds recommended guidelines for PM2.5
- Damning report also reveals 7.9 million Londoners live in areas exceeding World Health Organization air quality guidelines by at least 50 per cent
- Sadiq signs London up to Breathe Life coalition to work with other world cities to drive down emissions of toxic pollutants
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today released shocking new research which reveals that every Londoner in the capital lives in an area exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the most dangerous toxic particles known as PM2.5.
The research, based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, also shows that 7.9 million Londoners – nearly 95 per cent of the capital’s population – live in areas of London that exceed the guidelines by 50 per cent or more.
The Mayor released the damning report as he delivered a keynote speech at the ‘Every Journey, Every Child’ Conference at City Hall today and signed the capital up to the Breathe Life coalition organised by WHO, UN Environment and Clean Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to connect similar world cities, combine expertise, share best practice and work together to improve air quality.
PM2.5 are small toxic air particles which are widely acknowledged to have the greatest impact on health with both short and long-term exposure increasing the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Children exposed to these toxic pollutants are more likely to grow up with reduced lung function and develop asthma, while PM2.5 is also known to result in 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.
New data, based on updated 2013 exposure estimates, shows that in central London the average annual levels of PM2.5 are almost double the WHO guideline limits of 10 µg/m3.
The Mayor is committed to tackling pollution in London and is determined significantly to reduce the levels of these dangerous toxic particles, aiming to get pollution levels to within WHO guidelines by 2030.
Around half of PM2.5 in London is from external sources outside the city, however, the main sources of PM2.5 emissions in London are from tyre and brake wear, construction and wood burning. Reducing these emissions and achieving WHO guidelines will require coordinated action by governments and cities around the world and a shift towards walking, cycling and using public transport, as well as new technologies like electric cars.
Sadiq is taking a bold approach to tackling air quality in London with a package of hard-hitting measures, which will drive down vehicle emissions on the capital’s roads and he is determined to make a difference on PM2.5. That is why he has released this new research to show the scale of the health challenge facing London and is also calling on the government to devolve powers to him to allow City Hall to tackle emissions from construction sites and wood burning.
The Mayor is also clear that he wants to reduce emissions from wood burning through improved education about the types of fuel that should be used and when they should be used. He also wants a stricter set of emission standards on future sales of wood burning stoves to tackle this source of pollution.
On 23 October, the Mayor’s new T-Charge comes into force to remove older, more polluting vehicles from central London. Road transport is responsible for around half of NOx emissions in the capital, and around 88 per cent of these emissions are caused by diesel vehicles.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This research is another damning indictment of the toxic air that all Londoners are forced to breathe every day. It’s sickening to know that not a single area of London meets World Health Organisation health standards, but even worse than that, nearly 95 per cent of the capital is exceeding these guidelines by at least 50 per cent.
“We should be ashamed that our young people – the next generation of Londoners – are being exposed to these tiny particles of toxic dust that are seriously damaging their lungs and shortening their life expectancy. I understand this is really difficult for Londoners, but that’s why I felt it was so important that I made this information public so people really understand the scale of the challenge we face in London.
“I am doing everything in my powers to significantly reduce NOx emissions by introducing the T-Charge to drive down the number of dirty vehicles polluting our roads and our lungs and implementing an Ultra Low Emission Zone with even tighter standards. I also urge the government to devolve powers to me so I can get on with tackling the dangerous toxic air particles – known as PM2.5 – that we know come from construction sites and wood burning stoves. It’s measures like these that we need to get on with now to protect our children and our children’s children.”
Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador of Child Health Initiative, said: “We are facing a global crisis and our children are on the front line. As they take their journeys to school every day, millions of children are placed at unacceptable risk. Every single day, 3,000 children are killed or injured on the world’s roads in traffic crashes. Millions of children worldwide breathe toxic air. In the 21st century, how can we allow this?
“In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is taking action, but leaders everywhere must step up and do more to protect the most vulnerable – for the sake of every child, every life.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said: “To ensure good health, every person must be able to breathe clean air no matter where they live. London’s plan to clean up their air means millions of people will be able to walk to work and walk their children to school without worrying about whether the air is going to make them sick. More cities around the world must also follow suit.”
Lord Robertson, Chairman of the FIA Foundation, said: “We’re facing a global public health emergency for our children. It's taking place right in front of us, on our streets. Yet the international community is failing to respond with anything like sufficient urgency. Here, in London, we have a Mayor who is listening to children and intervening to protect their health, working to curb toxic emissions and ensure social justice for every child.”
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “This is great news for Londoners. This support for the Breathe Life campaign and Sadiq Khan’s leadership means that millions of people can cease being hostage to toxic fumes. It sets an example of positive action that we hope cities around the world will follow.”
Notes to editors
- The updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory and associated PM2.5 research is available here: https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/pm2-5-map-and-exposure-data. For more information, email: [email protected].
- The ‘Every Journey, Every Child’ conference takes a child health perspective to showcase, to an international policy audience, London’s approach to tackling air pollution and implementing healthy streets, and to demonstrate – with examples from the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia – how other major cities around the world are grappling with similar issues and following similar paths to reimagining their urban space and tackling air pollution.
- Breathe Life is a campaign established by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UN Environment Programme and Climate and Clean Air Coalition to encourage cities to achieve the WHO 10ug/m3 health-based limit for PM2.5 (the legal limit is 25ug/m3) by 2030. This global campaign aims to mobilise cities and individuals to protect our health and our planet from the effects of air pollution. The campaign provides a platform for-Your data has been truncated.
- In the UK, the legal limit for PM2.5 is an annual mean concentration of 25 µg/m3. The WHO set a guideline limit which reflects the levels at which increased risk of death from exposure to PM2.5 is likely. This guideline limit recommended is an annual mean concentration of 10 µg/m3. However, the current evidence suggests there is no safe level of PM2.5.
- The Mayor has doubled funding spent on tackling air quality to £875 million over the next five years. Follow the link here for work the Mayor is doing to tackle emissions: https://www.london.gov.uk/media-centre/mayors-press-releases?topic=1487&order=DESC.