London in the dock over air pollution

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The people of London know all too well the foul state of the air they breathe, and scientific studies confirm that air pollution from motor vehicle exhausts routinely exceeds statutory limits designed to protect our health. Pollution from vehicle fumes can lead to respiratory illness and premature death, and the problem is particularly acute in many British cities.

Following persistent breaches of regulations governing air-borne pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter produced in the burning of fossil fuels, the European Commission las month launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to deal with poor air quality. As with all EU regulations, the 2008 air pollution directive was drawn up with full and equal participation from the UK government.

As concerned residents of southeast London, we in the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign have in the past year conducted two citizen science experiments looking at nitrogen dioxide levels near to major roads, including those linked with the Blackwall Tunnel. In the first of these studies, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were found to exceed legal limits at around half of the monitored locations. In the worst case, the pollution level was nearly twice the permitted maximum. Results from the second, more extensive survey are due soon – watch this space.

Given the perilous and worsening state of our air, the Mayor of London and other local politicians should do away with plans to bring even more traffic congestion and pollution to the region. We are calling on them to scrap plans for a Silvertown road tunnel, and instead support sustainable Thames river crossings which prioritise public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.