A leading scientist believes that air pollution in boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea poses a serious public health concern comparable to obesity and tobacco smoke.
Pollution figures for each borough, collected for the first time by Public Health England, reveal that Kensington and Chelsea has the most polluted air in England.
Dr Dirk Wildeboer, senior lecturer in Bioscience and Biomedical Science at Middlesex University, said that after reviewing the report, one can calculate how many days an individual loses from their life expectancy due to air pollution.
For every year lived in Kensington and Chelsea, 3.3 days are lost compared to the greener Shropshire where only 2.2 are lost.
“Air pollution reduces life expectancy with some local variations,” said Dr Wildeboer.
“On the one hand air pollution is a global problem, but on the other, exposure levels to individuals and therefore health impacts vary greatly,” he explained.
The scientist recommended that residents of Kensington and Chelsea take individual responsibility by getting involved in borough-wide initiatives and events to make their area a cleaner and safer place to live.
This included reducing the amount of short car journeys by walking and cycling that would help to make an important contribution to pollution levels in the borough.
Kensington and Chelsea resident Robert Pritcett said the results weren’t completely surprising.
“On Redcliffe Gardens near Earls Court Road, they have always got big lorries coming down, it is a main throughway,” he said. “Sometimes in the mornings I come out and the car is all covered. It is parked on Redcliffe Gardens and it gets covered in a lot of grime, overnight, it is noticeable.”
Dr Wildeboer recommends the introduction of green walls along major roads to reduce the pollution exposure, for residents living close to busy roads.
Nicolas Pejacsevich, an estate agent at Douglas & Gordon in Chelsea, said the news had not impacted house prices in the borough as yet.
A report produced for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea states: “Londoners are faced with only two choices: to leave London for a cleaner place,or to act to reduce the pollution emissions that we generate, both individually and collectively.”
John Needham, security guard at Chelsea harbour,said :“I didn’t really realise how high the pollution rate was, but with all the buildings here, it stands to reason.”