Sadiq Khan pledges to take action as study links air pollution and inequality
Londoners living in some of the capital’s most deprived boroughs are up to twice as likely to be affected by respiratory diseases than those who live in more affluent parts of the capital, figures published today (6 June) suggest.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said the statistics, published as part of a wider study on lung health from the British Lung Foundation, show the need for more urgent action to improve the capital’s air quality, which currently fails to meet the legal requirements for pollutants.
According to the new figures, residents of Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham and Newham are up to twice as likely to suffer from lung cancer and other lung diseases than those who live just a few miles away in some of London’s most well-off boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Barnet.
Commenting on the figures, the Mayor, said: “This deeply concerning report shines a light on the huge health inequalities in London as well as how poor air quality is a ticking time-bomb for our health, particularly for Londoners in the most deprived parts of the city.
“I am determined to get to grips with health inequalities in harder-to-reach groups and in London’s most vulnerable communities – something the previous Mayor dismally failed to do. One of the best ways to do this is to tackle London’s dangerously polluted air and make sure that breathing clean air is a right, not a privilege.â€?
Estimates suggest that up to 10,000 deaths in London each year can be linked to air pollution. London does not currently meet the legal requirements for pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and research published by the World Health Organisation last month showed that London has breached safe levels of pollutant particles known as PM10.
According to the British Lung Foundation, the average prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has increased by a third across London between 2004 to 2013, rising from 1,443 cases per 100,000 people to 1,925 cases.
And, while it acknowledges a prevalence of respiratory illnesses in poorer boroughs, authors of the study note that the figures have been adjusted to take into account the relative age and sex of each of the boroughs – although factors such as socioeconomic status and ethnic composition were not taken into account.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s a worry for everyone, making existing lung problems worse, increasing our risk of lung cancer and early death. We must all play a part in reducing harmful pollution. We are pleased to see that the Mayor is taking action to reduce pollution in London.â€?
Last month it was revealed that the previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had failed to publish a major report demonstrating that 433 schools in the capital are located in areas that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution – and four-fifths of those are in deprived areas.
Sadiq Khan has announced plans to implement new measures to clean up London’s air and will launch a formal policy consultation in weeks.
The proposals in the consultation will include the extension of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), a higher charge for the most polluting vehicles entering central London and the start of an investigation into the costs and challenges of implementing a diesel scrappage scheme (see airqualitynews.com story).