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Air pollution ‘most deadly’ environmental challenge, says former deputy mayor of London



Former deputy mayor of London Nicky Gavron has described air pollution in the capital as the “most deadly” environmental challenge and heavily criticised the current leadership for failing to take strong action.

Gavron, who was deputy under Ken Livingstone, wrote in the Guardian, “Of all the environmental challenge the capital currently faces, air pollution is by far the most deadly.” 

The remarks are made after campaigners claimed that London’s Oxford Street had breached its nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit for the whole of 2015 by 5 January. The group, Clean Air London, accused the Mayor of taking “backwards steps” and failing to address the issue of air pollution.

Oxford Street was also deemed to be home to the world’s highest levels of the toxic compound NO2, with the high levels being caused by taxis and other vehicles, last year. Current London mayor Boris Johnson dismissed the claim as an “urban myth.

In her article, Gavron cites research linking air pollution to premature deaths and respiratory issues, particularly in children.

Gavron continues, “This should be a clarion call to those in power. The failure so far to come up with a suitable, co-orientated response to all the evidence is frankly lamentable. We can no longer afford for this to fall on deaf ears.”

In order to tackle the issue, she suggests that until all vehicles run on clean fuel, London urgently needs a transitional strategy, including lower speed limits, measures to reduce congestion and idling and an ultra low emission zone for the whole of London.

The risks around air pollution, particularity for the vulnerable, such as children and elderly, were recently raised by MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee. In a report, the committee called for schools, hospitals and care homes to be built away from ‘pollution hotspots’ and for existing buildings next to busy roads to be fitted with air filtration systems.

Gavron concluded, “Until we have political leadership that takes this issue seriously we must face the reality that London’s children will continue to be exposed to levels of pollution that will scar their health for the rest of their lives.”

Photo: Garry Knight via Flickr 

Further reading:

Labour promises air pollution crackdown

MIT study links climate change, air pollution and decreasing food supplies

Study: climate change will worsen air pollution

London’s Oxford Street has already breached air pollution limit

Study: air pollution affects heart beat