London’s air pollution ‘a forgotten crisis’, says Policy Exchange

Think tank Policy Exchange has published the minutes from their discussion on London’s air pollution, which they warn is a public health crisis comparable with smoking tobacco.

In a roundtable discussion on London’s road transport emissions, experts including Martin Strobel from Bosch and Elliot Treharne, Air Quality Manager for the Greater London Authority debated how to avoid worsening the public health crisis caused by air pollution.

Poor air quality in London already causes an estimated 4,000 deaths per year, with strong links to respiratory and heart diseases.

Environmental campaigners expect the development of road and airport infrastructure to worsen air quality further.

Key to tackling the problem, the attendees agreed, is increasing public awareness on the dangers of air pollution.

Compared to the prevalance of smoking in the 1960s, it was noted that experts are now fully aware of the health risks of poor air quality, but the general public remain broadly uninformed as to the extent of the problem.

The attendees also agreed that policymakers are now hindered by a range of projects which did not achieve their goals in the past, resulting in a “boy who cried wolf” response to air quality policy advocates.

The discussion group confirmed that transport provision still needs to increase to accomodate an expected influx of new residents that could fill a city the size of Birmingham, meaning that air pollution measures must move quickly.

“Policymakers should look at a wide range of things that affect air quality, including home working and other technological change”, the report states.

“They should also think more about whether it makes sense for everyone to be making their commutes at the same times of day”, it adds.

The attendees agreed unanimously that tackling the problem “may require a fundamental rethink in the way we use and get around our cities”.

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