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Nearly half of Londoners feel health has been affected by poor air quality, poll reveals

  • By Rosemary.Davenp...

Nearly half of Londoners feel poor air quality has had a negative impact on their health, a new poll has revealed.

London Councils carried out the first specific air quality polling to find out how much Londoners know about pollution and the impact it has on their lives.  The organisation, which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London, asked 1,000 residents to take part in its online research.

Three quarters of respondents agreed that air quality is an issue in the capital, with 38% strongly agreeing.  The figure rose to more than 80% among those who are newer to London, those who cycle, those who use public transport and those whose health is affected by pollution.

The findings also showed:

  • Nearly half of respondents (46%) said poor air quality had had an impact on their health, with asthma, breathing difficulties and coughing reported most frequently.  People aged 25-34, those who live in inner London, those who cycle or use public transport and those with children felt most affected.  39% of people said air quality impacted on decisions they made regarding their health.
  • More than half of people questioned (54%) felt some health issues they experience are exacerbated by London’s air quality (54%).  About 30% of over 65s said they had experienced breathing difficulties.
  • Nearly a quarter of people (22%) say air quality affects their choice of school for their children. When asked if their children’s health had been affected by air pollution, 12% of respondents said yes.
  • Over a third of people say air quality affects where they choose to live in London.  People aged 16-44, as well those with children, those from a BAME background, and those who cycle, use public transport and own cars were more likely to say this.
  • Over a quarter of people said they changed their behaviour on days when air pollution is high.  Older people (those aged 55-65+) were more likely to stay indoors.
  • Nearly half of people questioned said they would change their habits in order to improve air quality.  Actions people were willing to take included walking/cycling more, followed by using public transport more, and reducing the number of car journeys they make.  Just 5% of respondents said they owned an electric vehicle and 71% said they don’t currently cycle in London.

Cllr Julian Bell, London Councils’ executive member for transport and environment, said:

“This research is the first of its kind to be carried out in the capital and highlights the very real concerns many Londoners have about air pollution and its impact on their health day-to-day.

“The fact so many people reported a negative impact on their health, and concerns about the health of their children, is worrying and shows this continues to be an issue of huge significance in our city.

“Boroughs have been doing active work in striving to achieve air quality targets for several years, with many doing some fantastic work to promote the use of walking, cycling and using public transport.  London Councils supports the Mayor of London’s plan to make this issue one of his top priorities and has backed calls a diesel car scrappage scheme, as well as increased investment in sustainable travel.

“But London cannot do this alone – Government must draw up a new Air Quality Strategy and play its part in passing new Clean Air Act legislation.  This must be fit for purpose in the modern world, and include new powers and legal protections to ensure existing air pollution limits and targets are not scrapped as a result of Brexit.”

Ends

The research, which polled 1006 Londoners, was undertaken by TNS LondonBus on behalf of London Councils. Interviewing was conducted by online self-completion from  12th-15th September 2016.

Notes to Editors

  1. London Councils supports the early implementation of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019.
  2. It also supports, in principle, plans for an expanded ULEZ beyond the current Congestion Charge Zone, but this would need to be implemented in coordination with the boroughs to identify the best possible boundary route.
  3. London Councils has sought assurances from TfL that any surplus income from the ULEZ and emissions surcharge will be ringfenced and used for measures that improve air quality standards in London, for example investment in electric buses, electric taxis, electric charging points or more sustainable modes of transport, especially walking and cycling.
  4. London Councils also believes the Government needs to review financial incentives, such as Vehicle Excise Duty, to encourage the take up of the lowest polluting vehicles to reflect concern for both CO2 and NO2 emissions.