The London Roads That Have Already Breached Their Annual Pollution Limits

The London Roads That Have Already Breached Their Annual Pollution Limits

And the areas that are expected to very soon.
January 24, 2017, 1:23pm

This post originally appeared on VICE UK. Yesterday, a "very high" pollution alert was issued for London. This might not surprise you if you've witnessed any of the beautiful, smog-enhanced sunsets we've been having recently, or woken up coughing jet-black phlegm into your fist. But it is a huge worry: Around 9,400 deaths a year in London are linked to pollution, and 500,000 Londoners under 19 live in areas that breach EU pollution limits.


Take Lambeth's Brixton Road: Just five days into 2017 it had already surpassed its annual air pollution limit. The same goes for Knightsbridge and Putney High Street—two wealthy areas full of diesel-guzzling SUVs and 4x4s, which emit less pollution that causes climate change compared to gas alternatives, but more pollution that's harmful to humans.

To find out which other areas are likely to soon breach their pollution limits, I contacted the London Air Quality Network (LAQN), a pollution-monitoring system run by King's College London that works with London councils. They explained that it's difficult to make exact predictions on which areas are most toxic and which are expected to be the worst due to various factors—one being weather and wind direction. Since pollution levels are monitored at the side of the road, one day the wind might blow the pollution away from the monitor and cause the system to reflect a low pollution level, while a change in wind direction the following day could cause the monitor to show that pollution levels had been breached. For this reason, it's easiest to make predictions based on averages across the previous year.

The places I have photographed are some of those most likely to breach their pollution limits in 2017, according to the LAQN. These estimations were based off data reflecting how much they exceeded their limits by last year—if they went over the provisional hourly limits of N02 above 200ug/m3 for more than 18 hours in the year—though they're provisional as the LAQN is still ratifying the data. But essentially, what you need to know is: Don't make a habit of hanging around by the road in any of these places, because it is not good for your health.

1: Knightsbridge

Knightsbridge has already breached the hourly limit for 2017, and went 222 hours above the limit in 2016

2: Euston Road, Camden

Euston Road exceeded the limit by 26 hours in 2016.

3: The Strand

The Strand exceeded the limit by 211 hours in 2016.

4: Oxford Street

Oxford Street exceeded the limit by 163 hours in 2016—although this is a still-developing story: LAQN is investigating what happened here because the number last year fell from around 1,500 hours in previous years.

5: Brixton Road, Lambeth

Brixton Road has already breached its hourly limit in 2017. In 2016, it exceeded the limit by 502 hours.

6: Ikea, Brent

The area around Brent IKEA was 75 hours above the limit in 2016.

7: Hanger Lane Gyratory

The Hanger Lane gyratory was 23 hours above the limit in 2016.

8: Putney High Street

Putney High Street has already breached its hourly limit in 2017 and was 1,248 hours above the limit in 2016.

In November 2016, Sadiq Khan unveiled plans for the world's first double-decker hydrogen buses, and announced that no more pure diesel buses will added to the city's fleet. The same month, the government was told by the High Court that its plans to cut air pollution—which contributes to 50,000 early deaths nationally every year—were not good enough.

At the time, Theresa May said, "There is more to do, and we will do it." However, what exactly it is they plan to do is yet to be seen.

Follow Chris Bethell on Twitter.