Our capital has the filthiest air in Britain. Air pollution, being driven to dangerously high and illegal levels by diesel fumes from our cars, taxis, buses and lorries, is causing almost 10,000 early deaths a year in London.
Children are particularly affected. Research by King’s College London suggests the lung capacity of youngsters living in London has been reduced by living or going to school near main roads. Last month a landmark report from the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health starkly set out the dangerous impact air pollution has on children.
The report suggests that long term exposure to air pollution has a wide range of adverse effects in childhood including on the development of the foetus. Exposure during early life can lead to the development of serious conditions such as asthma and increases in heart attacks and strokes for those in later life.
Therefore it should be no surprise that two out of three parents worry about children breathing London’s dirty air according to a survey of parents in London by pollsters YouGov that ClientEarth commissioned.
Londoners are also concerned about the threat of air pollution to their own health.
Our poll reveals that Londoners believe air pollution is the biggest health threat they face living in the capital. Almost half of all Londoners believe air pollution to be a bigger threat to their health than stress, lack of exercise or smoking.
Not only are Londoners worried about their health they have sent a clear message to whoever is the next Mayor that they expect them to clean up London’s dirty air. Our survey showed that three quarters of Londoners think the Mayor has a moral responsibility to clean up air pollution for future generations.
This poll clearly shows Londoners want their Mayor to get serious about the toxic and illegal levels of air pollution. Boris Johnson’s record on air pollution has been dismal. He has had eight years to clean up London’s air and he has failed to take the urgent action needed. He leaves a legacy of dirty air.
All the main Mayoral candidates are talking about this issue which is welcome. But Londoners want much more ambitious action and ClientEarth will be making that case every day until polling day and beyond.
What is needed is a clear commitment to strengthening and expanding the current plan for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) as soon as possible to protect the health of everyone who lives and works in the capital. This will mean the dirtiest vehicles will be removed from the most polluted areas.
The Mayor should also restrict access to the ULEZ to those vehicles which the manufacturers can prove meet the most stringent emission standards when driving on London’s roads, not just in discredited laboratory tests.
Finally the Mayor needs to work with the EU to ensure that new air pollution legislation protects Londoners rather than heavily polluting industries.
The Mayoral candidates must listen to Londoners and come up with proper plans that will reduce air pollution as soon as possible, so we are not choking on illegal levels of pollution until 2025.
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Note : All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,015 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th – 14th March 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all parents of children aged 18 or under, living in London.