Sadiq Khan speaking

Mayor vows to tackle air pollution as he reveals health inequalities

06 June 2016

Worrying new figures published today have revealed that Londoners living in the capital’s most deprived boroughs are up to twice as likely to die of lung cancer, asthma and other lung diseases than those who live in more affluent parts of the capital.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said today that the statistics, published as part of a wider study on lung health from the British Lung Foundation, show the need for more urgent action to tackle the capital’s air quality, which fails to meet the legal requirements for pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

According to the new figures, residents of Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham and Newham are up to twice as likely to die from lung cancer and other lung diseases* than those who live just a few miles away in some of London’s most well-off boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Barnet.

Sadiq Khan said: “This deeply concerning report shines a light on the huge health inequalities in London as well as how poor air quality is a ticking time-bomb for our health, particularly for Londoners in the most deprived parts of the city.

“I am determined to get to grips with health inequalities in harder-to-reach groups and in London’s most vulnerable communities - something the previous Mayor dismally failed to do. One of the best ways to do this is to tackle London’s dangerously polluted air and make sure that breathing clean air is a right, not a privilege.”

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “We know that air pollution can have a detrimental effect on the health of our most vulnerable citizens both today and tomorrow and could cause lasting damage. It’s a worry for everyone, making existing lung problems worse, increasing our risk of lung cancer and early death. We must all play a part in reducing harmful pollution. We are pleased to see that the Mayor is taking action to reduce pollution in London.”

Almost 10,000 Londoners die every year because of polluted air according to the latest medical research. London does not currently meet the legal requirements for pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and new research published by the World Health Organisation last month showed that London has breached safe levels of pollutant particles known as PM10.

Last month, the Mayor laid bare the full extent of London’s air quality crisis when he revealed that his predecessor failed to publish a major report that demonstrated that 433 schools in the capital are located in areas that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution – and that four-fifths of those are in deprived areas.

The Mayor has announced bold plans to clean up London’s air and will launch a formal policy consultation in a matter of weeks.
The proposals in the consultation will include:

• Extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North Circular Road and the South Circular Road and the possibility of bringing forward the introduction earlier than 2020. Under current plans the ULEZ will only operate within the Congestion Charging Zone and it is due to come in from 2020.

• Implementing an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles entering central London using the Congestion Charge payment and enforcement system from 2017 (this would not mean an increase in the Congestion Charge but just the method for collecting the extra charge from people driving the most polluting vehicles).

• Introducing ULEZ standards for heavy vehicles London-wide from 2020.

• Giving the go-ahead for Transport for London (TfL) to start work on the costs and challenges of implementing a diesel scrappage scheme as part of a wider national scheme delivered by the Government.

• Proposals to work with the Government to tackle air pollution on a national and international level.

In a further bid to tackle air quality in the capital, the Mayor has also joined a High Court challenge of the Government’s air pollution plans as an Interested Party. Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are suing the Government for the second time in a year, having won a case at the Supreme Court in 2015 which ordered ministers to fulfil their legal duty to cut pollution in “the shortest time possible”. The new case argues the government is still failing to do this. The Mayor has now set out his view that London can meet the legal standards for NO2 well before 2025, which is the date the Government’s Air Quality Action Plan projects London will be compliant.

Notes to editors


·         The British Lung Foundation has today published data showing the relative risk of various lung diseases, broken-down by London borough. Average risk is presented as 1, so a number higher than 1 means a higher risk than average and a number lower than 1 means a lower risk than average. This was part of a wider study funded by the British Lung Foundation, The Battle for Breath – the impact of lung disease in the UK.



·         For example, residents of Newham are three times more likely to be admitted with asthma than are Bromley residents [of a similar age and gender].This comparison relates to the whole population of each borough, not just to those who have been diagnosed as asthmatic. Thus, the threefold increase could be due to a higher prevalence of asthma in Newham, or to a higher rate of admission among asthmatics, or both.


·         Because the relative risks are all adjusted for age and sex, any differences between areas can't be attributed to differences in the age/sex structure of the populations. However, they are not adjusted for other factors such as socioeconomic status or ethnic composition, both of which, of course, vary greatly between Newham and Bromley.


·         According to the British Lung Foundation, the average prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has increased by a third across London between 2004 to 2013, rising from 1,443 cases per 100,000 people to 1,925 cases.


·         * Other lung diseases refers to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Pneumonia, Mesothelioma, Asthma.


·         Deaths caused by lung diseases are due to a number of factors such as hereditary conditions, infectious diseases and lifestyle choices such as smoking as well as poor air quality. These factors also cause health inequalities amongst Londoners.