Roadside signposts and online alerts could be used to inform Londoners of air pollution hotspots and periods of poor air quality, under proposals announced today by the capital’s new Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Londoners should be much better informed when air pollution reaches dangerous levels in the UK capital, Khan said, announcing he has directed Transport for London (TfL) to “urgently” develop a package of public alerts and signs aimed at increasing awareness of poor air quality in the city.
Proposals being considered include roadside signs on the most polluted roads, greater promotion of the free airTEXT phone alert service and more effective use of social and traditional media to raise awareness of air pollution.
The Mayor will launch a formal public consultation on a number of air pollution policies in the coming weeks and he said plans to boost awareness of air pollution episodes would be launched as part of the new policy package.
Other policies he has mooted include extending the 2020 ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) area and investigatory work towards a possible diesel car scrappage scheme.
Khan said new air pollution figures suggested people in London should have been better informed about the dangers to their health during peak pollution periods on more than 100 occasions over the past two and a half years.
Alongside today’s announcement, the Mayor released statistics from King’s College London showing that air pollution in the capital reached ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ levels on the official measurement scale on at least 49 occasions in 2014.sa
The statistics included the high profile Saharan dust episode in April 2014, during which the London ambulance service reported a 14 per cent rise in 999 calls for patients with respiratory issues and a higher than normal volume of calls from people with breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.
“I will do everything humanly possible to put the well-being of Londoners first and will be taking robust steps to clean up the capital’s filthy air and drive down the number of days when air quality is dangerously high,” said Khan. “In the short term, I want to ensure Londoners are given clear information and advice during these episodes, when they can take practical measures to protect their health.”
Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said it was “vital” Londoners with asthma know when pollution levels are high so they can “take steps to keep themselves safe”.
“According to the latest figures from the Health Survey for England toxic air affects nearly 600,000 people living in the capital with asthma,” said Boycott. “We urgently need significant investment into asthma research to find practical solutions to this invisible killer and we need governments across the UK to take action to reduce pollution levels.”
Mayor Khan has also joined a recent High Court challenge against the UK government over high NO2 levels in the UK, including London. Environmental NGO ClientEarth’s case was fast-tracked by the Court last week and is now set to be heard in October.