Toxic nitrogen dioxide emissions and particulate matter from exhaust fumes and burning of fossil fuels have a much worse effect on mortality rates in London than previously expected, a new study has found.
According to King’s College London researchers almost 9,500 people died in London in 2010 due to health problems caused by air pollution. Of those, 3,537 were killed by nano-scale particles known as PM2.5 that are too small to be filtered out by the human respiratory system and accumulate deep inside the lung alveoli. Further 5,879 died as a result to the exposure to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, which exceed EU limits in all but two London Boroughs.
The study, conducted for Transport for London, estimated the total economic loss caused by air pollution to stand at £3.7bn.
However, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the data were five years old and not reflecting measures he has since taken to clean up the air in the capital. These measures include imposing age limits for taxis, introducing hybrid buses as well as proposing a new low emission zone.
"My greatest priority remains to protect the well-being and environment of Londoners, and this scientific evidence will ensure we have all the information needed to continue delivering comprehensive measures that bring real change,” Johnson said.
"I've been criticised for cleaning up taxis, upgrading bus fleets and my plans for the world's first Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2020, but this study shows imperatively why these bold measures are required."
The study suggested the number of deaths would have fallen in 2012 and 2015 due to projected reductions in pollution, and would fall further by 2020 as a result of the introduction of an "ultra low emissions zone" in the city.
But the mayor said that, with half the health effects caused by air pollutants coming from outside London and even from abroad, the Government and the EU must help to win London's "pollution battle".
In its quest to clean up London’s public transport fleet, Transport for London announced today it will start operating fully electrical buses on further two London bus routes.
The single deck buses delivered by Spanish manufacturer Irizar will be serving on routes 507 and 521 between Victoria and London Bridge.
Overall 51 fully electric vehicles will operate on the routes, providing a reduction of 408 tonnes of CO2 and 10 tonnes of NOx per year, when compared to single deck diesel buses.
Transport for London said that by 2020 all 300 single deck buses operating in central London will be zero emission (either electric or hydrogen) and all 3,000 double deck buses will be hybrid.
In June, at the Global Clean Bus Summit, Boris Johnson announced the first fully electrical double decker bus will start trials in London this autumn.