Why is Air Pollution such an Issue in London?

As the home of approximately 8 million people, it comes as no surprise that the natural environment of London suffers in a number of respects. With so many people each generating some form of pollution, the recent report that labelled the quality of the city’s air as dangerous to consume indicates that this trend is far from abating.

Despite World Health Organisation guidelines as to what constitutes a healthy quality of air to be exposed to for prolonged periods, London has been found to exceed this recommended limit by more than 50%. This phantom menace is estimated to play a major factor in the deaths of 9500 people a year across London, as the toxins within the particles contribute to a range of serious health issues ranging from breathing difficulties to various forms of cancer.


Indeed, the scale to which the British capital is saturated by this health hazard is virtually all-encompassing and those who work within the heart of the city are particularly vulnerable. Not even well-maintained indoor environments are safe, as just a single window for instance being open can be the opportunity the pollution outside needs to seep in. In extreme cases indoor air has been found to be 50% more polluted than the air outside due to the lack of places for the bad air to escape to, so investing in office ventilation is a must for the sake of employee health.


Heavy traffic on a London road

(Congestion in London is a major contributor to emissions, and one of the primary issues for politicians to address)


What is being done?

Whilst it is undeniably a major public issue, there are various efforts taking place in order to improve the quality of London’s air. Upon receiving the report in question, Mayor Sadiq Khan claimed that the data was ‘sickening’, and that he has set a target of 2030 by which to get these numbers under control to a more breathable level.

The national government has already publicly committed to cutting harmful pollutant emissions, and has rolled out ‘clean air zones’ in other urban hubs across the UK such as in Leeds, Nottingham, and Southampton. These measures would target specifically vehicles that produce a greater level of carbon emissions and encourage the transition to electric or hybrid vehicles which would benefit via given priority in a number of ways-such as when it comes to parking or access to city centres.

Last year, researchers identified ‘tighter management of HGV’s’ as a measure that they believed politicians should particularly focus on to curb pollution. With London requiring such immense logistical support, a massive amount of commercial vehicles are needed to support the residents and businesses within, so improving the carbon footprint (or tyre marks as the case may be) is integral for any future success.

Whilst it would be unrealistic to expect such a vital part of London’s economic network to simply disappear overnight, there has to be a viable alternative for large and small providers alike that is more eco-friendly than the status-quo. Both long and short term planning is vital for this to succeed, so that the transition can happen at a pace that suits both economic and environmental concerns and can hopefully combine the two together for the health and happiness of all Londoners.