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Extending London’s low-emission zone could deliver cleaner air to thousands of children

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Tens of thousands of children living in London, along with over 100 schools, will have cleaner air if plans to expand the city’s low-emission zone go ahead.

The implications for widening the existing Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) are potentially significant, say city leaders, benefiting some five million people currently living in areas that exceed World Health Organization clean air targets.

The expansion plans would improve air quality for 340,000 people including 87,000 children, 50,000 older people and 145 schools.

in 2019 around 4,000 Londoners died because of long term exposure to air pollution, while children can have permanently stunted lungs. Travelling around the capital is a major source of exposure to poor air quality, with road vehicles causing nearly 50 per cent of the city’s air pollution, and now new figures by City Hall show what is a bleak situation in parts of outer London which are not currently part of the ULEZ.

‘All these emissions can have a major impact on children’s health’

The city says that this urgent need to tackle the capital’s toxic air and protect all Londoners’ health has resulted in the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, launching a consultation on expanding the ULEZ London-wide. The central London ULEZ has already reduced nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations by 44 per cent, particulate matter concentrations (PM2.5) by 27 per cent and carbon emissions by six per cent.

All of these types of emissions can have a major impact on the health of children. The case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the nine year old girl whose death in 2013 was officially linked – for the first time – to toxic city air, has created a true legacy for action.

As part of the drive towards cleaning the air for Londoners, Mayor Khan and the Bloomberg Philanthropies charity have also named a series of community groups that will receive free ‘Breathe London’ air quality sensors. Designed to enable them to make their own choices about where they monitor local air pollution, these sensors monitor levels of pollution, including particulates and nitrogen dioxide

The £1.5m investment for the Breathe London network – £790,000 from City Hall and £720,000 from Bloomberg Philanthropies – is funding more than 200 air quality sensors across the capital, as well as further research and community engagement. Managed by experts from the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London through Imperial Projects, the wider Breathe London Network currently stands at more than 300 sensors across London and continues to grow as businesses and other organisations can buy into the network and purchase their own air quality sensors.

‘The health of Londonders is being damaged by air pollution’

Mums for Lungs in the London borough of Redbridge is one of the first community groups to be awarded a sensor, which is now installed in Elmhurst Gardens, an urban park and playground. It is located outside the expanded ULEZ and residents will be monitoring the pollution that predominantly comes from the capital’s inner ring road,

Mayor Khan said:  “The health of Londoners across the capital is being damaged by air pollution and I’m doing all I can to improve it. This data shows how important it is to take bold action that benefits all Londoners. If the zone is expanded, five million people living in the outer boroughs would also be able to breathe cleaner, less polluted air and this is why I’ve been consulting on expanding the ULEZ London-wide.

“Deadly air pollution contributes to children developing stunted lungs, asthma and a whole host of other health issues and new research has shown that it also puts people at increased risk of developing dementia. We need to act now to protect the most vulnerable from the worst consequences of toxic air and build a safer, fairer, greener and more prosperous city for everyone.”

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “London’s air is getting cleaner, thanks largely to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s strong leadership, but air pollution continues to harm the health of residents, with low-income neighbourhoods suffering the most. Bloomberg Philanthropies has been glad to support Mayor Sadiq Khan’s energetic and effective efforts on this issue, and these new sensors – which will collect local data on air quality across London – will empower community groups to clean the air and help them lead longer and healthier lives.”

Lydia Fraser-Ward of Mums for Lungs in Redbridge said: “Our community are deeply concerned about the levels of air pollution in the neighbourhood, particularly in the playground of our lovely local park Elmhurst Gardens which sits next to the North Circular. It is thanks to this project that we now have reliable and up-to-date data which members of the public can access online.

“This data demonstrates when pollution levels are at their highest and acts as important evidence to lobby for mitigation measures to help to protect park users from exposure to dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in the future.”

Click here for more information about Breathe London.

Author: Simon Weedy

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