Even London’s parks could be facing potentially dangerous levels of air pollution, according to new research that promises to provide Londoners with detailed information on the air quality of the capital’s green spaces.
Trees and open green spaces are often seen as a cost effective mechanism for improving air quality and curbing pollution levels. But new research by London-based data science company ASI, to be released later today, reveals nearly a quarter of London’s open green spaces have unsafe levels of pollution, breaching the EU’s recommended limit for Nitrogen Dioxide of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
The park’s found to be in breach of the target include some of London’s best-known spaces, such as Green Park, St James’s Park, Hyde Park, Clapham Common, Kensington Palace Gardens and Regent’s Park.
The top five dirtiest green spaces were named as Whittington Garden, near Cannon Street station; the gardens at the rear of Langham Mansions, near West Brompton station; St Mary’s Square, near Edgware Road tube; Redbridge Roundabout; and the Royal Crescent Mews Amenity Area, near Shepherd’s Bush station.
The research brings together air quality data for 2013 from the Greater London Authority (GLA), geographical grid references, and readings from 100 sensors across the capital that were used to cross check the GLA data.
“Huge numbers of Londoners are unknowingly going for walks, playing with their children and having their lunchtime sandwich in open spaces with appalling air quality,” said ASI Data Science Fellow Pablo Mosteiro, who produced the research. “Our new website will allow them to see whether there are any better and cleaner alternatives nearby. This was only possible, though, through the continued efforts of the GLA and others to make data publicly available.”
Marc Warner, chief executive of ASI, urged Mayor Sadiq Khan to continue his air quality policy push in a bid to improve the air in the city’s parks.
“The city’s parks are often referred to as the ‘lungs of London’,” he said. “We now know that these lungs aren’t as healthy as we’d hoped. The new Mayor is going to have to prioritise clean air policies so that we can make our parks and open spaces the healthy places they’re meant to be.”
Khan has won plaudits from green groups during his first few months in office, after launching a wide-ranging package of proposals designed to improve London’s air quality, including the early introduction of an ultra low emission zone that would impose new charges on the dirtiest vehicles, new green bus routes, and additional funding for local projects designed to tackle air pollution.
The UK government is facing ongoing legal action over its failure to bring the country into line with EU air quality standards, with ministers under mounting pressure to deliver a more ambitious national plan for tackling air pollution.
Meanwhile, in related news a group of Dutch environmentalists announced earlier this month they would sue their government over the health impacts of air pollution.