‘Unhealthy’ PM2.5 levels in evidence across London

Emissions of fine particles exceed health limits in every one of London’s 32 boroughs, data released today (4 October) by City Hall has suggested.

According to the latest figures in the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, published this morning, emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exceed the 10 μg/m3 guideline limit recommended by the World Health Organisation by up to 50% across central and outer areas of London.

PM2.5 emissions exceed the WHO’s 10 μg/m3 guideline limit in all 32 London boroughs, figures suggest

Analysis of the data found that around 7.9 million of the capital’s residents, around 95% of the population, are routinely exposed to potentially harmful levels of PM2.5, a statistic that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has described as ‘unacceptable and shameful’.

Commenting on the data this morning, whilst delivering the keynote speech at the Every Journey, Every Child conference at City Hall, the Mayor said: “The data reveals that every resident of London are living in areas which break these limits and that 7.9 million Londoners, roughly 94% of the population, lives in areas which exceed the WHO guidelines by 50% or more.

“This is not just unacceptable, it is shameful. As the mayor of this city I am not prepared to stand idly by and let the situation deteriorate further. I feel I have a responsibility to act, an obligation to young people and to future generations.”


PM2.5 is the term used to describe solid particles and liquid droplets with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres across, and it is acknowledged as being among the air pollutants which has the greatest impact on human health.

Both short and long-term exposure to PM2.5 increase the risk of mortality from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as increased hospital admissions, studies suggest. Children growing up exposed The Committee On the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) estimates that exposure to PM2.5 attributes to 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

A large component of PM2.5 in London comes from regional sources, although the biggest contributor is thought to be road transport, predominantly through tyre and brake wear.

During the conference the Mayor also signed London up to the UN Environment and WHO ‘Breathe Life’ campaign, the first ‘mega-city’, committing to meeting the 10 μg/m3 WHO PM2.5 limit by 2030 – cementing the pledge set out in the London Environment Strategy published in August (see story).

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, addressing the Every Journey, Every Child Conference this morning

The Mayor added: “London will be joining WHO’s campaign to bring air pollution down to safer levels. By joining this coalition of cities, we are committing not just to comply with legal limits but to go much further and to meet the WHO standards for PM2.5 particles which are necessary for truly safeguarding human health.

“I am proud that London is putting itself at the forefront of an international movement dedicated to cleaning up our air, tackling climate change and ensuring the health of our children, because the simple truth is that no one city can achieve these goals alone.“

Commenting on the commitment Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “This is great news for Londoners. This support for the Breathe Life campaign and Sadiq Khan’s leadership means that millions of people can cease being hostage to toxic fumes. It sets an example of positive action that we hope cities around the world will follow.”


The conference at City Hall this morning heard from a number of speakers from across the globe, speaking on the subject of tackling air pollution and traffic danger faced by children when walking to school.

2013 annual mean PM2.5 concentrations in London

Speakers included Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador of the Child Health Initiative, who said: “We are facing a global crisis and our children are on the front line. As they take their journeys to school every day, millions of children are placed at unacceptable risk. Every single day, 3,000 children are killed or injured on the world’s roads in traffic crashes. Millions of children worldwide breathe toxic air. In the 21st century, how can we allow this?

“In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is taking action, but leaders everywhere must step up and do more to protect the most vulnerable — for the sake of every child, every life.”


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