Pollution ‘kills 3,000 Londoners each year’

By Alice Cannet

Air pollution may be causing 3,000 deaths in London each year, a report published today by the London Assembly exposed.

The report warned that Londoner” health could be greatly affected by poor air quality, the worst in the UK and amongst the worst in Europe for airborne particles and nitrogen dioxide.

The figure is a major increase from the original government estimate of 1,000 deaths and was reached by experts in a recent report by the European Environment Agency.

The report ‘Every breath you take’ blames the lack of accurate and timely information about the disastrous effects of pollution on Londoners’ health as ‘unacceptable’.

It calls on Boris Johnson to set out the current levels of air quality in London, the cuts necessary to reach the EU target, and describe the policies which will achieve such a reduction.

The use of biofuel for all London transport is one of the many steps the report has advised Mr Johnson to take to combat London air pollution.

They recommend the use of biogas, from waste and biodiesel from used vegetable oil which produce almost no health hazardous emissions and little greenhouse gas emissions.

They suggest that a published timetable and plan showing the steps the Mayor and London boroughs will take to change the situation is also needed.

Eight areas of the UK including London have failed to reach the air quality targets which strategies in the 1980’s had set out to accomplish.

The UK government is now facing infringement action by the European Union and the report urges them to take action to avoid hefty fines from the EU.

A draft Air Quality Strategy is up for consultation with the London Assembly and Greater London Authority in summer 2009 with publication of the final strategy by summer 2010.

The focus of the Mayor’s strategies should be on improving air quality and reducing all emissions, not just CO2 emissions at a national and local level, the report said.

The experts at the Committee said political will to implement policies to improve air quality, including technological solutions was necessary.

London’s Mayor should also make information about poor air quality, causes, costs, benefits, and EU targets available to Londoners to raise awareness of the issue.

The report concluded: “Once people understand the cause and effect of air pollution better, they will begin to understand the impacts of their choices, which might influence a change in behaviour, which is vital for long-term improvements in air quality.”