London air pollution breaches legal level
21 April 2011
Air pollution in London breached legal limits yesterday (Wednesday 20 April 2011), despite commitments by both the UK Government and London Mayor to bring it under control this year to avoid huge EU fines. Friends of the Earth renewed its call on London Mayor Boris Johnson to take urgent action to cut traffic and encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport more frequently.
According to EU rules, air pollution from tiny sooty particles (PM10s) - mainly caused by traffic - must not exceed certain levels in London for more than 35 days in any year. Yesterday Marylebone Road in central London exceeded legal limits for the 36th day this year.
Friends of the Earth London Campaigner, Jenny Bates said:
"It's outrageous that London is choking on air so dirty it's illegal - air pollution contributes to thousands of premature deaths every year in the capital, particularly affecting some of its most disadvantaged people.
"The UK assured the EU that air pollution limits would be met in 2011 - but not enough has been done, and now the country could face massive fines.
"Mayor Boris Johnson must improve air quality by prioritising funding for measures that will get Londoners driving less and walking, cycling and using public transport more - and scrap traffic generating schemes like new road crossings over the river Thames."
Notes to editors
1. See here for more information on how Marylebone Road exceeded PM10 air pollution limits.
2. PM10s can be harmful to health - the Greater London Authority estimates that over 4,000 people die prematurely in the Capital every year as a result of long term exposure to air pollution from fine particulate matter. Air pollution disproportionately affects some of the country's poorest people who are more likely to live near main roads where air pollution is highest. See here for a 2010 study for more information.
3. Air pollution is a longstanding problem in London, which has failed to reach EU targets to curb PM10 air pollution every year since 2005. In March the EU said it would not prosecute the UK over pollution breaches prior to 2011, conditional on the UK producing an action plan by June to ensure the limits would be met this year. See here for more information.
4. London is also currently badly exceeding limits for another air pollutant found widely around the Capital - NO2 - and the Mayor will be trying to gain more time to bring it within required limits.
5. Friends of the Earth's Rights and Justice Centre is representing Simon Birkett of the Campaign for Clean Air in London (CAL), who has put in a Freedom of Information request over air pollution in the Capital. See here for more information.
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Apr 2011