Wake up and smell the nitrogen dioxide


From the blog

Wake up and smell the nitrogen dioxide

Posted 1 March 2009 18:42 by martin

The Sunday Times is today reporting that Britain suffers from the most widespread levels of dangerous traffic fumes in Europe.

The Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) says that in 2008 over 100 UK cities breached the pollution limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that will become the legal standard next year under European law.

Apparently London has the worst annual average level of NO2 of any capital city in Europe. For example, in Brompton Road and Marylebone Road, current levels of NO2 are over twice the World Health Organisation backed legal standard.

Modelled 2010 annual mean NO2 concentrations, from LAEI

The Times states that by next year, 2,188 miles of Britain’s main roads will exceed EU limits, including:
  • London – 698 miles of roads
  • Greater Manchester – 129 miles
  • West Midlands – 116 miles
  • West Yorkshire – 48 miles
It's alarming, and depressing, news – or not so new news, as it seems that it's been clear for a long time now that the UK was way off target for this pollutant.

And in a sign of what's bound to become an increasingly common economy:environment trade-off (with the latter the loser), in London, Boris has suspended phase 3 of the Low Emission Zone, affecting vans and minibuses, as a 'reprieve' for small recession-hit businesses.

But according to Simon Birkett at the CCAL:

“London needs urgently one or more additional inner low emission zones and other measures, including incentives, to tackle harmful emissions at their source. Premature death and irreversible climate change are even worse fates than economic depression. Why can’t our political leaders wake up and tackle two problems at the same time?”

walkit.com is playing its own small part in this debate by offering users 'pollution aware' routes in London and Cambridge.  So if you need to walk from Euston Station to Marylebone Station we can show you a route that avoids the filthy Marylebone Road.

Of course this is a bit of an 'end-of-(exhaust)-pipe' solution – we'd much prefer it if you could walk down any road in Britain safe in the knowledge that you weren't exposing yourself to dangerous levels of a toxic gas.

But for the time being, that, (to labour the gag), seems to be a bit of a pipe dream.

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