Thursday, 21 May 2009

London's air quality scandal

It's probably best to read the next paragraph carefully. In fact, I'm going to bold it, so that it doesn't just skipped over.

New research released yesterday revealed that the UK’s poor air quality is causing 24,000 premature deaths a year. The research found that 4,400 deaths are caused each year in London, four times as many as earlier estimates.


I'm sure if such a big deal hadn't been made of all that, many readers would have assimilated it as just another environmental proclamation. The truth is, it's a massively important issue - and the Green Party is one of the few organisations that seems to take it seriously. How seriously? Well, the photograph above is of the London Green Party Euro election launch, which took place this week next to an air quality monitoring station in Marylebone, precisely to highlight this issue.

And as always, Jean is on the ball in Europe - championing the EU Directive that will hopefully finally force the UK Government (and Boris Johnson) to take this issue seriously.


The UK faces an embarrassing legal wrangle during the 2012 Olympics over its failure to act on air pollution, Jean Lambert, London’s Green Party MEP, has warned.

The European Commission has already launched legal action against the UK over breaching standards on particulate matter (PM10), the tiny airborne particles emitted by industry, vehicles and domestic heating, which can cause and irritate conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and lead to premature death.

In addition, hundreds of local authorities in the UK exceed EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Traffic fumes on certain stretches of roads breach safety levels in some 95% of zones and agglomerations in the UK, and on two major stretches of road in London NO2 levels are double the limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). NO2 limit values come into place in 2010, and if the UK is still in breach of these it risks further action from the Commission.

Jean said:

“The Government has repeatedly shirked its responsibilities to comply with EU standards, specifically put in place to protect human health. I recently raised its non-compliance with NO2 limits with the European Commission, pointing out that unless pre-emptive action is taken now, the UK could be mired in legal action from the Commission over its non-compliance in the period leading up to the Olympics. All eyes will be on London in 2012 – how’s it going to look if the UK is in the dock for failing to reduce the levels of deadly pollutants in the air?”

Jean’s warning follows a report released on 1 May by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee, then chaired by Green Party AM Darren Johnson, into air quality in the capital. The report noted that health problems caused by air pollution cost the NHS £20 billion a year, and called on Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to set out detailed projections of the costings, timings and impacts of policies contained in his forthcoming air quality strategy. It also recommended action to reduce road traffic and encourage walking and cycling, technological solutions to ensure Londoners are better informed about air pollution, and close co-operation between the Mayor, the GLA, individual boroughs and national government.

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