Eight out of 10 Londoners say combatting air pollution must be a priority for the capital

  • By Gemma Kappala-R...

Air pollution in London is a public health crisis that significantly affects Londoners’ physical and mental health, costing the NHS around £3.7 billion per year in London alone.

On Clean Air Day (20 June) London Councils, the London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet) and the London Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH London) are calling for urgent new measures to combat air pollution.

Londoners of all age ranges and social demographics are increasingly aware of London’s dirty air, according to new polling commissioned by London Councils.

More than half of Londoners have felt that their health has been impacted by air pollution, and eight out of ten say that tackling poor air quality in the capital should be a priority.

Londoners’ awareness of air pollution issues has risen every year that London Councils has done this polling, increasing from 83% in 2016 to 92% this year. Air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society, including children. Two million Londoners – including more than 400,000 children – are living in areas which exceed legal limits for air pollution.

According to the polling, more parents state that their children have been affected by poor air quality, with 31% taking it into consideration when deciding where to send their children to school. Only 22% did so in 2016.

London Councils, LEDNet and ADPH London are therefore calling on the government to:

• Introduce new clean air legislation that enshrines the public’s right to breathe clean air in law, as well as setting new legal limits on air pollution which are, at minimum, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline levels;
• Provide local authorities and other public organisations with the appropriate powers and resources to effectively tackle local air pollution and improve health outcomes;
• Accelerate the shift to more active and sustainable modes of travel, such as walking and cycling, while increasing funding to make all forms of public transport low or zero emission;
• Support public sector procurement to move faster towards ultra-low and zero emissions vehicle fleets;
• Support a shared narrative on air quality and public health across London that will change public perception around the contribution of car journeys to pollution and the ways in which people can reduce their exposure to air pollution;
• Work closely with the NHS to reduce emissions, limit exposure to air pollution and ensure that air quality around hospital facilities is monitored.

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, said:

“London’s boroughs have been leading the fight against the capital’s pollution problem. We are working diligently to reduce emissions by making walking and cycling more accessible, installing electric vehicle charging points and supporting businesses in switching to cleaner vehicles. All of these measures improve London’s air quality.

“Given that air pollution does not respect administrative boundaries, we need to continue to work collaboratively with all key stakeholders to tackle it. Clean Air Day provides an excellent way of raising awareness of this issue and an opportunity for fresh problem solving.”

Stephen Evans, LEDNet air quality lead, said:

“More and more London boroughs are actively working with communities to tackle the damaging effects of air pollution. We know that reducing driving and introducing cleaner vehicles are some of the best ways to do this.

“Boroughs are sharing best practice on local initiatives to reduce reliance on cars through investment in cycling infrastructure and re-designing our streets to make them safer places for pedestrians and cyclists. Boroughs are also supporting regional initiatives such as ULEZ and scrappage schemes, and working to reduce the impact of our own operations in order to play our part.”

Dr Tamara Djuretic, ADPH London air quality lead and Director of Public Health at Barnet Council, said:

“Poor air quality impacts on people’s length and quality of lives and it is costing the NHS almost £4 billion a year. Evidence is clear that the most effective way of reducing pollution is addressing its source. We need to help people understand clearly, and in a simple language, what contributes negatively to air quality. We need to support them to make healthier choices and play a part in reducing their exposure to air pollution. For example, we should be making changes in how we all travel across London, so that it is done in a more environmentally friendly and active way, such as walking and cycling. This would improve people’s quality of life in many ways. “

Many London boroughs have plans for Clean Air Day, including:

• Southwark announcing the expansion of its network of permanent air quality monitoring stations from 2 to 5
• Sutton holding an air quality workshop for pupils at Robin Hood Junior School, which will include exploring a living wall designed to protect the school from air pollution
• Havering running an awareness-raising stall in Liberty Shopping Mall, Romford

More information can be found on our website.


Notes to Editors:

This is the fourth year that London Councils has conducted specific air quality polling to find out how much Londoners know about pollution and the impact it has on their lives. Kantar conducted an online self-completion survey. 1,003 Londoners aged 16+ were interviewed between 16/05/2019 - 24/05/2019.

Kantar is one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies. Working together across the whole spectrum of research and consulting disciplines, its specialist brands, employing 30,000 people, provide inspirational insights and business strategies for clients in 100 countries.

London Councils represents London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. More about London Councils here: www.londoncouncils.gov.uk

ADPH London represents Directors of Public Health in London’s 32 local authorities and the City of London. ADPH London was formed shortly before the transition of public health services from the NHS to local authorities in 2013 and acts as a regional network of the UK-wide Association of Directors of Public Health. Visit adph.org.uk/networks/london

The London Environment Directors' Network (LEDNet) is the membership association for London’s Environment Directors. We work together to deliver more effective and efficient environmental services, as a key component of place-shaping, through research, policy advocacy and collaboration. Visit www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/lednet