London air bad for health despite emissions reductions

London will still have dangerous levels of pollutants in the air by 2010 even if emissions reductions targets are met, according to statistics released by the Mayor.

As new vehicles with higher emissions standards are seen more frequently on the roads, it is estimated that nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from road traffic will be reduced by 43%, and fine particulate matter (PM10) will go down by 35%.

However, despite this, both pollutants will still most likely be present in the capital’s atmosphere at levels that are harmful to health, according to the Mayor’s figures, and it is predicted that in some parts of London they will greatly exceed safe levels.

Figures from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory showed that road traffic was still the main cause of air pollution in the capital.

In greater London, road traffic accounted for 52% of NOx emissions and 51% of PM10. In central London, traffic was the cause of 68% of NOx, half of which was emitted by heavy lorries alone, while a quarter of all PM10 emissions were caused by taxis, with buses and coaches accounting for a tenth and heavy lorries for around a fifth.

However, across London as a whole, lorries, vans and private cars accounted for 85% of NOx and PM10 emissions.

“These statistics are important in revealing where the emissions are coming from and confirms that fitting diesel particles to all buses is having a positive impact on emissions,” Mayor Ken Livingstone said.

Looking at individual roads, the highest emissions levels were from sections of the M25 motorway, followed by Euston Road / Marylebone Road, A12 Cambridge Park Road, A13 Barking Road, A40 Cumberland Gate and the North Circular.

“More needs to be done to improve London’s air quality, which is why Transport for London is trialling hydrogen fuel cell buses (see related story) and I am introducing higher emissions standards for London’s taxi fleet (see related story),” Mr Livingstone continued.

“I am committed to introducing a Low Emission Zone for London to ban the most polluting coaches and lorries from greater London, making it the only major city in the world to have taken such a radical step to tackle air pollution.”

By Jane Kettle

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