Pollution in the City hit the top “black” alert as the latest figures showed tiny killer toxins in London’s air still claiming more than 3,000 lives a year.
A spike of particulate pollution reached a “very high” in Upper Thames Street yesterday, a 10/10 level which has previously been recorded just three times in the capital in the last two years.
People in the area should have reduced physical exercise, particularly outdoors and especially if experiencing symptoms such as a cough or sore throat, according to Government guidelines.
Scientists at King’s College London predicted this pollution would reach 9/10 in the busy street in the City today, which is “high”.
It was also forecast to hit 7/10 in Cromwell Road, in Kensington and Chelsea, also a “high”.
Anti-pollution campaigners seized on the figures to demand better public warnings from City Hall and Public Health England about filthy air.
“For goodness sake @PHE_London @MayorofLondon What does it take to get you to issue an #airpollution alert? Bodies?” tweeted Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air in London.
The City of London Corporation urged people to use its “City Air” app which gives alerts and routes to avoid pollution blackspots.
Meanwhile, latest PHE figures show the rate of fatalities attributable to PM2.5 particles rising in 30 out of 33 boroughs, having previously steadied in London and even declined.
Westminster now has the worst record for this pollution which scientists say is particularly dangerous as the particles are so small they can get deep into lungs and the bloodstream.
Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, said the lack of any “substantial” decrease in deaths attributable to PM2.5 highlighted that “considerable more ambition” will be needed by the incoming mayor to address “this pressing public health issue”.
PM2.5 pollution is significantly blamed on diesel engines, coal-burning power stations, agriculture and shipping, with a large proportion in the capital blown in from outside, including from the Continent.
PHE previously put the death toll attributable to human-made PM2.5 pollution in London at the equivalent of 3,389 a year, based on 2010 figures, with Kensington & Chelsea the worst area.
The death rate associated then with PM2.5 was 7.2 for 1,000 people passing away, which declined to 6.6 in 2012 but nudged up to 6.7 in 2013, the most recent figures, equivalent to more than 3,000 deaths.
Eleven boroughs saw a rise of 0.2, including several leafy suburbs in south London.
They were Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond, Sutton, Wansworth and Westminster which now has a rate of 7.9.
City Hall stressed air quality was improving, described the lastest PHE figures as “historic” but said they showed the need for more “bold measures” on top of those already introduced by the Mayor which include cleaning up the bus and taxi fleet.
“Our more recent measurements of particulate matter have shown the greatest improvements by busy roads where people are most exposed to pollution,” added a spokeswoman.
Nearly half of the health effects from air pollution are caused by toxins from outside London, including 75 per cent of cardiovascular hospital admissions associated with PM2.5, according to a report published by the Mayor.
Public Health England said it was “too early to read a trend because individual years are likely to fluctuate due to changes in weather conditions”.