Last weekend, l was able to address an audience at the Cities for Clean Air conference in Central London on a panel which uniquely had lawyers,scientists,campaigners and the odd politican like myself!
I made my contribution by asserting that its the second biggest public health issue after smoking as if you check the figures in London from TfL its 20 times the killer of road fatalities annually in terms of premature deaths. Moreover those affected by it reduce their life expectancy by a minimum of six/eight months at least. Its harmful health affects also include respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, so for example its been suggested it doesn’t help the lung development of young people.
At a recent Health & Environment Committee meeting we got an update on the poor air quality situation in London from Kings College across 100 monitoring stations across London over 2011. The new figures revealed that limits were breached at most monitoring sites near busy roads. In particular NO2 limits were breached at the majority of sites and locations in Central London; 5 locations further away on the roads of inner & outer London and those close to Heathrow as well. As for PM10 levels, these were over the limits on 2 kerbsides & 3 roadsides as well as one industrial site. This all illustrates the extent of the problems of poor air quality in Greater London.
In the Central London hotspot there is a consensus amongst Local Authorities like the City of Westminster, Camden & City of London of how to tackle the issues head on but the Mayor has yet to sign up to their suggestions. These include a better deployment of retrofitted buses in central London; age limits on taxis with the offer of a car scrappage scheme; and a fifth phase of the Mayor’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which would cover black carbon and PM 2.5’s for pollutants currently not registered.
But let us not forget this is not just a central London problem but affects the suburbans of London as well. Putney & Brixton have there own particular problems with Putney being the buses and Brixton just the level of traffic. In Neasden & Acton lane we have more industrial sources for the air pollution problems in the neighbourhood and finally of course we have Heathrow with the volume of traffic the airport attracts, its the second biggest hotspot in London after Central London.
There is next to nothing in the Mayors manifesto for his relection in May that deals with poor air quality but it appears he is working on his 2020 vision. If he wants to make an impact, then he should sign up to the Central London LA s consensus; taken on board the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee recommendatiosn on public awareness; and finally the recommendation fo the London Assembly Health & Environment Committee.