Diesel exhaust is the main source of air pollution in cities

Toxicity charge coming in central London for the most polluting cars

Image credit: Reuters

Drivers of the most polluting cars will have to pay a £10 charge for entering central London from October 2017, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced just a day after the European Commission issued a final warning to the UK to address excessive pollution levels or face legal action.

The pollution charge will affect drivers of vehicles not meeting the Euro 4 emission standard, which essentially includes most petrol and diesel vehicles registered before 2006.

“It’s staggering that we live in a city where the air is so toxic that many of our children are growing up with lung problems,” Khan said.

“If we dont make drastic changes now we wont be protecting the health of our families in the future.”

Khan, however, didn’t go as far as the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo who last month banned all diesel cars registered before December 2000 from the streets of the French capital.

Up to 10,000 vehicles each weekday are expected to face the so-called T-charge (toxicity charge), which will operate from 23 October 2017 onwards on top of and during the same times as the congestion charge. A driver of a pre-Euro 4 vehicle will therefore have to pay a total of £21.50 for driving in central London between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday.

“The T-charge is absolutely essential to protect human health in the short-term and paves the way for the mayors expanded ultra-low emission zone, but needs to go further and be applied to more diesel vehicles,” said James Thornton, chief executive of law firm ClientEarth which has taken the Government to the Supreme and High Courts over air pollution.

Air pollution is linked to 9,000 early deaths a year in London, one of many places hit by the UKs air quality crisis.

One road in the capital exceeded its allowed annual levels of nitrogen dioxide just five days into 2017.

Pollutants – mostly originating from traffic, particularly diesel vehicles - cause health problems such as asthma, heart and lung diseases. They are also thought to affect childrens health and development.

Khan said the T-charge was the ‘toughest emission standard of any major city’ and the first step towards implementing the Ultra-Low Emission zone planned for central London from 2019.

A Government spokesman reiterated ministers commitment to improving the UKs air quality, and pointed to the £2bn invested into cleaner transport since 2011 and £290m earmarked in Novembers Autumn Statement for electric cars and other clean technology.

A study by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the University of York published today in the journal Environment International estimates that air pollution probably contributes to 2.7 million preterm births a year around the world, equal to 18 per cent of all preterm births.

The study, which used 2010 data, focused on the effect of PM2.5 particles, tiny particles less than 2.5 nanometres in diameter, which can penetrate deep into human lungs causing persistent damage.

The particles can come from multiple sources including diesel engines, burning biomass for heating, as well as industrial facilities.

“This study highlights that air pollution may not just harm people who are breathing the air directly - it may also seriously affect a baby in its mother's womb,” said Chris Malley, of the University of York, and lead author of the study.

“Preterm births associated with this exposure not only contribute to infant mortality, but can have life-long health effects in survivors.”

The largest contribution to global PM2.5-associated preterm births was from South Asia and East Asia, which together contributed about 75 per cent of the global total.

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