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Air pollution, let’s talk about it

London-fog

Last month, a report on London air pollution concluded that a frightening 9000 Londoners die every year as a direct result of invisible pollution.

To put this into the context on a public safety issue people actually care about, that’s about 69 times the amount of victims during the Paris attacks, and three times more than on 9/11.

According to the study, the city actually reached its yearly ‘allowance’ (such an inappropriate terminology, but okay) of air pollution less than a week into 2016. Some areas including Upper Thames Street recorded a ‘black alert’ level of pollution, with experts recommending people in those areas actually stay indoors. Brilliant…

Michael Jackson masks

The main problem comes from nitrogen dioxide (N02). It is a pollutant which stunts the growth of lungs and increases risks of respiratory diseases, like lung cancer and asthma. Its effect can be particularly dangerous on children, as their lungs are still in development.

London’s among the worst places in the world for N02 emissions, and several areas across the city including Putney, Knightsbridge and Oxford Street hit their annual emission limits by the end of January. So what can we do about it which doesn’t involve putting on ridiculous Michael Jackson masks and just giving up on our environment like the Chinese?

There are some simple steps we could take to make a change, including:

  • banning diesel vehicles, which are largely responsible, from the city altogether. Over the top? Impractical? Well, they’re doing it in Paris
  • making the congestion charge more flexible to encourage the use of eco-friendly vehicles
  • reduce the number of black cabs on the streets. Letting Uber naturally continue its rise to dominance would actually probably do the job on this front
  • close city airport
  • investment in renewable energies instead of fracking, eh Mr Cameron?
  • avoid busy roads if you’re walking
  • walking if you’re not (exposition to pollution is actually greater within the confined space of a car)
  • In the meantime, you can also monitor air pollution via a range of sites and mobile apps

Next on the list?

For decades, people have been happy to point to the negative effects of alcoholism and smoking, and rightly so. And in spite of the silly internet quasi-pro-fat body movement, we’re slowly getting our heads around accepting that overweight isn’t just a different body type, but a genuine health hazard. Perhaps – hopefully – air pollution will be next on the list.

Once thing’s for sure, whoever the next mayor is, he’ll need to put drastic measures in place to improve the quality of our air.

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