London is a lovely place to live, but it does have at least one persistent problem…air pollution. While it’s not quite as bad as the polluted skies of Beijing, in just five days it has already surpassed its legal limits for toxic air for the entire year.
That’s a new record. Last year saw the same limit broken in eight days. London has broken these limits for six years in a row as of 2017, and it is still the worst city in Europe in terms of air pollution.
Dangerous air pollution is measured in terms of how much nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter there is in various parts of the city. Particulates can lacerate the inside of your lungs and airways, while the two gases can cause cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous system damage.
Under EU law, hourly levels of NO2 must not be more than 200 micrograms per cubic meter any more frequently than 18 times in 365 days. However, late on Thursday, with 360 days still left to go, this limit was broken in Lambeth, a borough in south London.
As reported by the Guardian, the UK Government has twice attempted to enact similar mitigation measures, but the High Court ruled their plans illegal simply because they would be so profoundly ineffective at cutting pollution.
Air pollution is responsible for tens of millions of deaths worldwide every single year. Although some of this can be traced back to fossil fuel power plants and construction work, the vast majority comes from diesel cars. Some cities, including Paris and Mexico City, have banned diesel vehicles altogether – and it looks like London needs to up its game and follow suit.