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homeFriday 20th January 2017

London breaks EU air quality rules in just days

Stuart Spear11/01/2017 - 16:01

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Putney High St was first to break EU laws in 2016
Putney High St was first to break EU laws in 2016

In an echo of 2016 it has only taken a matter of days for London to breach its annual air pollution limit for the whole year.

Under EU law hourly levels of nitrogen dioxide should not exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times in a year. By 9 o’clock on the evening of Thursday 5th January this legal threshold had been broken on Brixton Rd in Lambeth, South London, according to the London Air Quality Network.

In 2016 Putney High St was the first site to exceed the legal threshold just eight days into the new year. In 2015 Oxford St took the prize after just two days. 

Preliminary figures from Kings College London seem to indicate that over 60 per cent of the 97 monitoring sites across London exceeded legal annual limits for 2016. It is accepted that most main roads in London regularly breach legal levels for nitrogen dioxide with three quarters of the monitoring stations recording nitrogen dioxide exceedances in 2015.

The campaign group CientEarth recently won a High Court ruling where the Government has to produce a satisfactory air quality plan that brings pollution levels within legal limits.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: ‘While London has the worst air pollution, this is a national problem which requires a national solution. The Government’s draft plans to tackle air pollution, as ordered by the High Court, are due in April.

‘They must include a national network of clean air zones, which stop the dirtiest diesel vehicles entering pollution hotspots. They also have to stop the perverse fiscal incentives which encourage people to use diesel vehicles and instead help them to buy cleaner ones.’

Despite these rather grim headline figures for the capital research carried out by Kings College published in the Journal of Environmental Pollution in September shows that London air pollution policies are starting to have an impact with an overall improvement in air quality.

When looking at nitrogen dioxide the research found that between 2005 and 2009 levels along London’s roads increased by an average of 11 per cent per year. This increase is attributed to increasing numbers of diesel coaches and buses along with suspect Euro class standards as real time emissions failed to reflect factory tests.

After 2010 fitting new exhaust clean-up technology to older buses began to curb nitrogen dioxide levels to the point where levels decreased on average by five per cent a year between 2010 and 2014.

The research found that there was a significant variety in improvement across the capital with some areas showing a market improvement in air quality while others remained stubbornly polluted. 

Overall the authors of the report concluded that a multitude of London wide and local air quality initiatives aimed at tackling traffic pollution are having an impact. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to introduce a bigger ultra-low emission zone in 2019 while deploying the cleanest buses on the most polluted routes.

A study this week suggested that as many as 11 per cent of cases of dementia in people living near busy roads may be linked to air pollution.

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