Whether it’s smog from the cityscape or smoke from the kitchen,   air pollution is touted as one of the major threats to health and climate worldwide. 

World Health Organization  (WHO ) studies show that air pollution has increased mortality rates worldwide with some seven million premature deaths every year resulting from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections.

More people die as a result of air pollution exposure than from traffic collisions in different parts of the globe, with numbers estimated at 1.28 million in 2019.

In the UK,  meanwhile,   pollution contributes to some  28,000  to  36,000 deaths yearly,   with an estimated cost of more than  £20 billion every year.

London, the UK capital,    has many charms, but when it comes to air quality the city ranks among the worst in Europe, noted observers.   

The European Union says that London ranks as one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world,    with the city having the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in Europe.

And the problem is getting worse by the day,   according to London experts.

The UK Supreme Court ruled that the capital city government must cut air pollution, which is mainly caused by traffic.   and  that  its  measures have not been effective enough to comply with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide,

“The National  Health Service and social care alone will spend more than £5 billion to look after patients suffering from the consequences of   (air pollution)   and nitrogen dioxide exposure in England between 2017 and 2025 if air pollution remains unchanged, ‘   says the  Imperial College of London in a statement.  

There is a growing clamor for cleaner air,  as concerned groups call for government action to reduce air pollution,  and improve health and overall quality of life in the UK.

How can we help Londoners breathe better air? Check out London x City discuss the Health in London.

London government officials contend that air quality in the UK capital has improved in recent years, as a result of policies to reduce emissions,   primarily from road transport.   

City Hall statements report that the government is seeking to understand the inequalities in accessing clean air in London and considering how this will be improved by planned air pollution policies.

The London government hosts the Air Pollution Research in London (APRIL) network, which brings together scientists, policymakers, and the wider community, identifying priority areas for research to improve air quality in London and other major cities,  and supports new scientific research and communicates the latest research findings.

Official statements from  London Mayor  Sadiqi Khan emphasize the plunge of numbers on its population affected by pollution.   From more than two million people in the capital living with polluted air in 2016,    this reportedly fell to 119,000 in 2019.

“(Our) reports confirm the transformative impact that my policies have had on our toxic air crisis,” said Khan, who was elected in May 2016. “I’m pleased that Londoners are breathing cleaner air and that we’re saving the NHS billions of pounds.”

The said report does not include further falls in pollution after the  COVID-19 lockdown starting from March 2020,   and that levels of nitrogen dioxide by roads in central  London fell by 44%   between early 2017  and early 2020. 

The pollution cuts have been achieved by charges that have deterred dirty vehicles from entering the city center and have driven up the use of cleaner vehicles. Putting low-emission buses on the dirtiest routes, ending the licensing of new diesel taxis, and extending the amount of protected space for cycling has also contributed to lesser pollution.

Yet, Khan admits that the prolonged health problem is far from over.

“However, air pollution remains a major public health challenge and it’s time for the government to step up, We can’t sleepwalk from the health crisis of Coved back into complacency over the major impact of toxic air on everyone’s health,”  says the London mayor. 

Air pollution,   indeed,    affects everyone who lives and works in London.   

With this long-standing health concern,   the most affected are the most vulnerable groups: children, older people, and those suffering from heart and respiratory ailments.    Further,   those living in the deprived areas are also most affected by poor air quality, partly because these areas are often near busy roads.

Experts, on the other hand, remain optimistic. 

“Breathing bad air has had an intolerable impact on Londoners’ health for far too long [but], starting around 2016, London’s air pollution underwent a dramatic change,” said Dr. Gary Fuller, an air pollution expert at Imperial College London.

“The changes in NO2 in central London and along main bus routes were some of the fastest that we’ve ever measured” in 30 years of monitoring, he said. “These successes show that our city’s air pollution is not an intractable problem.”

Prof Stephen Holgate, a special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians, also pointed out consistent victories against the pollution problem. 

“Air pollution is a scourge on society, especially harming the young and old. What the mayor of London has shown in his first term is that major reductions in toxic pollutants can be achieved and that businesses and the public are willing to make the necessary changes to deliver this.  These   pollution cuts would have enormous benefits for Londoners.”

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.