London has reported an alarmingly high rate of air pollution as early as 2010 and these high levels of pollutants have contributed to approximately 6,000 more deaths in the city during 2019, as substantiated by new research.
On February 15th, 2013, 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah passed away suffering from a very serious asthma attack. Ella has paid multiple visits to the hospital complaining about having seizures and difficulty breathing. She became the first person in the UK to have died of air pollution. Ella is certainly not alone, with the alarmingly high rates of pollutants in the air every person is at risk of getting highly affected by air pollution.
The air pollution in London is particularly severe owing to the sheer size of the city, combine that with the heavily trafficked road networks, and sky-scrapping buildings, central London easily becomes of the most contaminated and polluted places in the UK, as asserted by the London Air Quality Network. Pollution becomes a severe problem when a city is so densely populated with tall buildings that cause the air to get trapped especially during times when the weather is stationary.
As aforementioned, the crowding traffic on the roads of London, road vehicles contribute their fair share in increasing the city’s air pollution. Only road vehicles alone are responsible for approximately half of nitrogen oxides and other poisonous gasses that contaminate the air and get into our lungs. These poisons in the air are responsible for costing the city billions of pounds and also being a huge contributor to climate change.
Co-Deputy Director of Centre of Environmental Policy at Imperial College, Dr. Audrey de Nazelle claims that the presence of nitrogen dioxide in London is mainly due to road vehicles, which are worsened considering the already congested state of the capital. The average traffic speed has decreased in recent years from an average of eight miles per hour on weekdays. After the introduction of congestion charge – a daily fee of £12.50 is charged from drivers who do not comply with the minimum emission standards – the number of vehicles on the roads of central London has drastically reduced, however; the number of private vehicles – exempted from the congestion charge – has increased 4 folds over the same time frame.
The City Hall has announced that a high air pollution warning has been issued for London again since august 2020. The Mayor has also alarmed that the capital is inviting pollution from the continent, in addition to local emissions.
Air pollution is highly dangerous. As per a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health in January 2022, air pollution is in urban centers contributed to 1.8 million more deaths in 2019, making it more fatal than tobacco. Among these 1.8 million deaths, 5,959 deaths were in London, over 1,300 in Birmingham, over 700 in Leeds, and more than 600 in Liverpool.
Another study revealed that in 1 in 12 cases of asthma in children globally, nitrogen dioxide was highlighted as a leading cause. London yet again was responsible for a huge number of cases exceeding over 10,000.
Handling air pollution by reducing the amount of vehicle emission, which will also contribute to health improvements in many ways. Reduction in the number of vehicles on the road will eliminate the risk of traffic accidents, will help in creating a safe space for pedestrians and cyclists, and as we all know the increase in green spaces will have numerous health benefits.
There is a need for the improvement in public transport, making sure that it is affordable and efficient. If public transport can substitute for private transport then we have a much more chance of reducing the amount of air pollution.