Air pollution continues to rise as a concern for populations across different parts of Europe including in London, the capital of United Kingdom. Today London tries to improve its air quality and the IQAir AirVisual’s World Air Quality report of 2019 tells us that the average Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city during 2019 was 48. As a reminder, between 0 and 50 the AQI is qualified as good, and people can do normal outdoor activities. Nevertheless, the air quality in London is not perfect, in March 2019, the city reached an average Air Quality Index of 71, which is considered acceptable but which could cause moderate health issues, especially for particularly sensitive people such as kids and seniors
According to the IQAir AirVisual’s World Air Quality reports of 2017 and 2018, the average PM2.5 concentration level in London was respectively of 12.7µg/m3 and 12µg/m3, indicating an improvement of 0,7µg/m3. The latest IQAir AirVisual’s World Air Quality report of 2019 confirmed that the city is improving as the report shows that London annual average PM2.5 concentration went down to 11.4µg/m3.
In April 2019, London launched the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone); the authorities have defined a central urban zone in which drivers are required to meet specific gas emission standards. If drivers don’t respect the expected standards in the area, they have to pay a daily fine to be allowed to circulate in this specific urban part of the capital. The official website Gov.Uk (where people can find information about government services) specifies that the ULEZ daily charge is £12.50 for most vehicles types (cars, motorcycles, vans up to 3.5 tonnes) ; £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses/coaches over 5 tonnes. These restrictions are applicable every day, even during weekends (Except Christmas Day) and target different types of vehicles, including fire trucks and buses operating under a contract with London City. By July 2019, The ULEZ project led to a 20% reduction in emissions and the number of polluting vehicles entering central London dropped from 35,578 in March 2019 to 26,195 in April 2019. The Ultra-Low Emission zone should be expanded in October 2021 and cover the North and South of the capital.
London’s air quality in 2019 was better than in Paris. London ranked 65 most polluted city in the IQAir AirVisual’s World Air Quality report of 2019, the French capital ranked 53 most polluted city. With a PM2.5 concentration annual average of 11.4µg/m3 in 2019, London has been doing better than Paris which reached an annual PM2.5 concentration average of 14.7µg/m3
The pollution in London comes from various sources. The main factor is traffic and transportation-related gas emissions in general. The English government has already launched different initiatives to limit the air pollution that comes from trucks and cars, especially in central London where the air quality is the worst due to the substantial number of vehicles circulating in this area. Another factor is the soot and dust coming from construction sites and industries.
Outdoor air quality is definitely a major concern for population, but air pollution is also dangerous where we spend most of our time: indoors. Experts and scientists around the world focus their researches on the exposure to indoor air pollution which is known to be causing various health issues. For example, the carbon monoxide from heaters and from boiler can be dangerous for the human body. Some household daily-life products can contain organic chemicals that evaporate in the air causing potential impact on health. Cooking and heating appliances can release nitrogen oxides and other particulates that can damage the heart and the lungs over time. The mold in poorly ventilated houses can also be responsible for respiratory issues.
Unhealthy air is an invisible killer but an effective one. Air pollution can cause various health issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory problems (asthma is an example). Almost all organs in our body can be impacted by air pollution, including our brain. Seniors and children are the most vulnerable: seniors may already live with lungs and heart issues which air pollution can worsen. Children are particularly exposed to the danger of air pollution as their respiratory system is particularly vulnerable to irritations or inflammations which can potentially obstruct their airways. Generally, children spend a lot of time outside, increasing their exposure to bad outdoor air quality, but everyone can be the victim of air pollution really, this is why keeping track of air pollution matters
To reduce London air pollution people are encouraged to take public transports instead of using their car, whenever possible. Changing habits can definitely help: cycling, using public transportation or simply walking. When it comes to indoor air quality, it is important to keep solid fuel burners and gas appliances well maintained and to be vigilant with certain carpets and furniture that may release volatile organic compounds.
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