Clean Air in London said last night that pollution on Brixton Road may have set a “world record” for the number of times official pollution limits had been breached in a single day.
The organisation said the World Health Organisation guideline is for no human exposure to the dangerous gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over 200 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) measured over one hour. The EU legal limit, also in UK law, is 18 hours in a calendar year.
The monitor in Brixton Road’s was the first in London to report 19 “exceedances” at 9pm on Thursday 5 January (and 21 by 11pm).
Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air in London, called for outdoor food and drink sales to be stopped in areas with such high levels of dangerous pollution.
Last night ClientEarcth, a group of campaigning lawyers, said pollution in Brixton Road was the highest in London.
London Assembly Green Party member Caroline Russell visited the Brixton Road monitoring point this morning. She said: “London must comply with nitrogen dioxide legal limits by 2020 at the very latest, people are already suffering the awful public health consequences of living in this dirty air.”
Clean Air for London said hourly NO2 concentrations reached had an “incredible” 347.7 ug/m3 in Brixton Road at 9pm on 5 January. Brixton Road’s “staggering 17 hourly exceedances in a single day could be a new world record for an official monitor,” it said.
Other London sites aslo recorded high levels of NO2, with hourly concentrations in Brompton Road and Neasden Lane of 375.2 ug/m3 at 8pm and 338.2 ug/m3 at 11pm respectively.
High levels of NO2 are expected to continue today.
Birkett said: “London’s air pollution is worse this year than last, taking just five instead of eight days to breach the nitrogen dioxide hourly limit value for the whole of 2017. This binding legal limit has been in legislation since 1999 to be met by January 2010.
“[London mayor] Sadiq Khan knows how to reduce NO2 – he’s reduced annual mean concentrations in Oxford Street by 36% between 2015 and 2016,” said Birkett.
So there was no excuse for letting annual mean NO2 increase in other parts of London.
The World Health Organisation said there should be no human exposure to more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre in any hour.
But, Birkett said, many places in London have dozens or hundreds of such exceedances every year.
“With diesel vehicles responsible for 90–95% of NO2 from vehicle exhaust, the only way to achieve full compliance with WHO guidelines is to ban diesel from the most polluted places, as four other world cities have pledged,” he went on.
“Sadiq should match them and go further by pledging to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels throughout London by 2025, starting with diesel by January 2020. It’ll be no harder than banning coal burning 60 years ago.
“When conditions are as bad as they were on Thursday, when Brixton Road suffered 17 hours of exceedances in one day, bus services should be suspended, drivers should be advised not to drive and pedestrians should be warned to avoid the area.
“We need to ban alfresco dining and the use of outdoor tables for cafés wherever and whenever the WHO guideline for hourly exposure could be breached. Emergency measures are needed.”
Scientists warned recently that people who live near busy roads are at higher risk of developing dementia than other people.