The congestion charge is failing Londoners and is not controlling air pollution in the capital. The scheme, introduced in 2003, is one of the biggest of its kind and its main aim is to get people off the roads and onto public transport by using a daily fee of £8 (orginally £5) as a financial disincentive to driving in central London. Although improving air quality wasn't, in fact, one of the aims of the scheme (why not?), a 24% decrease of PM10s (tiny particles that lodge in the lungs) was noted in a 2006 study. It makes senseless traffic, fewer emissions equals less pollution. So it's very disappointing to hear that London is still one of the most polluted places in Europe.
According to a story in The Guardian particulate levels in the City of London were above levels set by the European Union for the 36th time this year. Under EU law, a country is only allowed 35 'bad air' days before action is taken, following which fines may be imposed. Air pollution is an ongoing problem in London and in the UK. Mayor Boris Johnson commissioned a report, carried out by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, that London's Bryanston Square and Dorset Square had the highest levels of PM2.5 pollution, followed by the City, Bloomsbury, the West End, St James's, Hyde Park, King's Cross, Holborn and Covent Garden. What does this mean in terms of Londoners' health? The report concluded that long-term exposure to this level of air pollution is likely to lead to 4,267 premature deaths.
A recent report from the American Lung Association underlines the dangers of particulate matter. Exposure to PM2.5s (particles which have a diameter of 2.5 micrometers) causes the most concern. They are so tiny, that they are inhaled deeply into your lungs, evading natural defenses. Many studies link PM2.5 exposure to increased asthma attacks and hospital admissions. PMs of all kinds are linked to increased use of medication in the asthma treatment of children, decline in lung function, more A & E visits and hospital admission for heart and lung problems. The particles are a double threat to people suffering from asthma because they make both airway constriction and airway inflammation worse. What is more, it doesn't take much of an increase in PM levels to trigger these problems. The latest scheme to persuade Londoners to leave their cars at home, and avoid the congestion charge, is free (up to half an hour) bike hire. It's proving popular, but what will cycle in close proximity to cars and through such a polluted city do to your lungs? Related Pages: Air Pollution