London Mayor calls for action on air quality as research shows impact of long-term exposure to pollution
The research – believed to be the first by a city to quantify the health effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as particulate matter (PM2.5). Combined together the effects of both pollutants reveal a higher health impact than previously estimated after taking into account this further pollutant.
The study for the first time combined the PM2.5 and NO2 figures to create a total figure of nearly 9,500 equivalent deaths attributed to air quality in 2010, but based on King’s projections, this will have decreased significantly in 2012 and in 2015, and is expected to be accelerated by the ULEZ in 2020
In response, the Mayor is calling for urgent action by Government and EU to complement planned measures like the Ultra Low Emission Zone, including ruling out expansion of Heathrow.
Boris Johnson said: “This is a snapshot of the true impact of air pollutants on our health. My greatest priority remains to protect the well-being and environment of Londoners, and this scientific evidence will ensure we have all the information needed to continue delivering comprehensive measures that bring real change. I’ve been criticised for cleaning up taxis, upgrading bus fleets and my plans for the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2020, but this study shows imperatively why these bold measures are required. I need the help and strong support of the Government and the EU to effectively win London’s pollution battle and target the enormous amount of toxic air transported into our great capital internationally.”
Dr Heather Walton from the Environmental Research Group at King’s College, London, author of the report said “The health evidence on the health effects of nitrogen dioxide has strengthened in recent years, including evidence linking long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide with mortality. It is now thought that there is an additional effect beyond that previously quantified for the effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5.
“This report quantifies the possible maximum size of this additional effect in London in 2010, expressed as loss of life years and equivalent deaths, acknowledging uncertainties such as the contribution from traffic pollutants other than NO2. It is important that these types of calculations are funded, published and debated to ensure the health benefits of policies to reduce emissions of air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide are fully recognised and used to design the best policies for the future.”