Boris Johnson today issued his first major public warning of high pollution in London – advising tens of thousands of people to cut back on physical exercise to protect their health.
The level 7 alert – the highest this year – was put out for 17 local authorities, mainly in central and west London.
From early this morning, the Mayor’s Breathe Better Together campaign advised:
– Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, a cough or sore throat to consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.
– Older people should reduce physical exertion.
– People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.
– Adults and children with lung and heart problems should do less strenuous physical exercise, particularly outdoors and if they experience symptoms.
Experts said the toxic pollution spike was due to winds dying down and dirty air coming in from the Continent, combining with traffic fumes and other airborne contaminants.
City Hall responded by issuing its first “high” pollution warning under its new Breathe Better Together campaign.
More than 10,000 Londoners who have signed up for text or e-mails were alerted.
“High air pollution forecast for Tuesday. Consider spending less time outdoors, take medication. If unwell, contact GP,” read one message sent out at 7am under the airTEXT service.
While a tweet from @LDN_environment warned: “High levels of air pollution forecast for today. Get tips to reduce your exposure and #breathebetter http://bit.ly/192uavt”
The pollution warning system ranges from one to 10 and the level 7 alert covered Brent, Camden, the City of London, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond, Slough, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster.
A spokeswoman for the Mayor of London said: “This is the first ‘breathe better’ day since the launch of the Mayor’s Breathe Better Together campaign in January, with advice and tips on small changes that can help reduce emissions and exposure.
“The campaign is part of an ambitious package of measures being led by the Mayor to tackle air pollution. At its heart, alongside cleaner, greener bus and taxi fleets, is the world’s first ultra low emission zone from 2020.”
Critics have accused the Mayor of dragging his feet over tackling pollution.
But Simon Birkett, founder of campaign group Clean Air in London, praised Mr Johnson today for the warning to Londoners of the pollution dangers.
He added: “Easterly winds look set to worsen the problem for west London as it gets smothered in everyone’s air pollution.
“Air pollution monitors across London are expected to report ‘high’ at roadside locations later today.
“Relief is expected overnight as wind speeds turn northerly.”
Scientists say thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely every year due to NO2 and other pollution in the capital, with emissions from older diesel engines one of the main causes of the toxic fumes.
A team of 20 officers from the City of London Corporation and charity Global Action Plan were patrolling the Square Mile today urging drivers to switch off their engine if they have left it running idle while parked.
Green London Assembly member Baroness Jenny Jones dismissed the Breathe Better campaign as “really disappointing and inadequate” compared to the scale of London’s air pollution problem.
She added: “It appears to be about advising the victims of air pollution rather than the polluters.”