Oxford Street air pollution ‘highest in the world’

King’s College London scientist makes claims about annual and hourly mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide on famous shopping street

Levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution on Oxford Street are the “highest in the world”, according to an air quality scientist at King’s College London (KCL).

Researchers from the university set up a monitoring station on Oxford Street in the capital, which found a peak level of nitrogen dioxide at 463mg3 (microgrammes per cubic metre).

Air pollution on Oxfords Street is as high as it has ever been, according to King's College London

Air pollution on Oxfords Street is very high, according to King’s College London

This figure is more than 11 times higher than the European Union’s safe limit of 40mg3. The monitoring station also found that average levels of nitrogen dioxide were 135mg3 — almost four times the EU limit — largely because of buses and taxis passing through the busy shopping street.

Speaking to the Sunday Times about the findings, KCL’s Dr David Carslaw said: “To my knowledge this is the highest in the world in terms of both hourly and annual mean.

“Nitrogen dioxide concentrations [on Oxford Street] are as high as they have ever been in the long history of air pollution.”

A spokeswoman for Kings College London today (July 7) confirmed that the research had been conducted by King’s College. However Mr Carslaw was unavailable for comment.


The news follows data released by the Mayor of London in June 2013, which revealed that Oxford Street was one of the most polluted roads in London for both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (see story).

The London Mayor Boris Johnson has rolled out 600 low emission hybrid buses and plans to introduce an ultra-low emission zone in the capital by 2020.

However, campaign group Clean Air in London (CAL) said the Mayor needed to do more to tackle emissions from diesel vehicles in the capital. CAL director Simon Birkett said: “Boris must end his love affair with diesel exhaust if we are to reduce toxic nitrogen dioxide.”


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Marcus Gibson
Marcus Gibson
9 years ago

The monitoring of London’s air pollution by KCL is ludicrous, as the NPL figures confirm.. London’s ‘pollution’ levels have hardly moved. Besides, everyone knows that the elimination of heavy diesel traffic, eg Routemaster buses, in central London must have had an effect. In addition, the once relatively free-flowing Oxford Street and Marylebone/Euston Roads are now either reduced to two lanes, traffic flow cut from about 12mph average to 3mph at best, due to dozens of new traffic lights and hundreds of.. rickshaws that clog the streets of London. Haven’t bus companies added 20 minutes to bus schedules since the dead hand of Ken Livingstone cut Oxford St from four lanes to two, and added 12 new traffic light systems?

9 years ago

Worryingly high! It should be pedestrianised…
PS: microgrammes = µg, not mg

Roy Spink
Roy Spink
10 years ago

Please explain, I think I’m missing a trick somewhere.

In the early 90’s I used to monitor oxygen in air. It’s around 21%. All these years on and with millions of Tons (or Tonnes, for my European friends) of Carbon let into the atmosphere its still at the same level. My school boy maths say that If I dump lots of one thing into the atmosphere then its own percentage rate will increase relatively and other percentage rates will decline according. Given I’m not dead suggests the oxygen level has remained constant. So what’s gone down percentagewise and what affect is that having?

Answers please to my email above

Marcus Gibson
Marcus Gibson
9 years ago
Reply to  Roy Spink

You’re quite right, Roy, KCL’s figures are ludicrous and needs total re-examination by independent experts, eg NPL..

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