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Almost all of London breathes air breaking World Health Organisation rules

Almost all of Londoners still live in areas above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limit for air pollution.

A report released by the Greater London Authority shows that while some progress has been made on air pollution there is still much to do, as 99% of Londoners live in areas with air polluted above the WHO limit of PM2.5

PM2.5 is fine particulate matter, it is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, examples include soot, dust, ash, and sea-spray.

Particulate matter can vary in size, so PM2.5 means the particles in a cubic metre of air that are above 2.5 micrometres, which is about one 400th of a millimeter. 

The biggest source of PM2.5 in UK towns and cities is from road vehicles, with roadsides having a much higher exposure than elsewhere. 

Exposure to PM2.5 affects your lungs and heart and has been linked to a variety of problems such as premature death in people with heart or lung disease, with children and the elderly being even more susceptible to the health impacts from air pollution.

It comes as the inquest into the death of 9-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah who died in 2013 concluded on Wednesday. 

The inquest found that air pollution contributed to her death making her the first person in Britain to officially have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

The coroner said that air pollution was a significant contributory factor in causing and making her asthma worse, they said nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter exceeded WHO guidelines with the main source being road emissions. 

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan responded to the conclusion of the inquest on Wednesday. 

He said: “Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, especially for our children, and the inquest underlined yet again the importance of pushing ahead with bold policies such as expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone to inner London. 

“Ministers and the previous Mayor have acted too slowly in the past, but they must now learn the lessons from the Coroner’s ruling and do much more to tackle the deadly scourge of air pollution in London and across the country.”

Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell said: “How can the Mayor justify new road projects like Silvertown Road Tunnel while recognising the human cost of vehicle pollution in the tragic and avoidable death of Ella Adoo Kissi-Debrah. 

“The Mayor needs to cut traffic, it’s the main lever he has to cut particulate pollution. 

“He must set an ambitious target to reduce the number of vehicles on our streets while making walking and cycling options safe and convenient so people have a realistic alternative to getting around.”

Wednesday also climate activists lose the legal battle at the Supreme Court to stop a third runway being built at Heathrow airport. 

The report did show some good news, as the number of Londoners living in areas above the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has reduced by 94%.

Featured image credit World Health Organisation

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