A third of London parkrun locations have poor air quality

5km parkruns on Saturdays have become a popular way to get fit, meet new people and dust off the Monday to Friday cobwebs, but new research has suggested that over a third of London parkrun locations are in areas with poor air quality.

Boiler Guide analysed recent data released by Imperial College London and the University of Leicester, which assessed the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in green spaces around the M25 corridor. 

They used the data to identify which of the 56 parkrun locations in London were best and worst for air quality and ranked them against the EU’s annual legal limit of 40μg/m3.

Annual levels at 20 of the locations came within 5μg/m3 of the figure and parkruns held at Burgess Park (40.8μg/m3), Mile End (40.4μg/m3) and Hackney Marshes (40.2μg/m3) all exceeded it.

Orpington (25.6μg/m3), Harrow Lodge (27.2μg/m3) and Raphael (27.3μg/m3) on the other hand topped the rankings when it came to clean air making them the best locations in Greater London to launch your running routine.

The original data was developed by King’s College London and divided London into grid squares.

Researchers applied measures from the closest grid squares to green spaces to give an annual NO2 average for 4,470 parks and open spaces across London, which included public parks, private parks (including Kew Gardens and Buckingham Palace Gardens), allotments, cemeteries, playing fields, golf courses, tennis courts and playgrounds.

They found that 24% of play spaces, 27% of public parks and 67% of private parks had annual NO2 levels that exceed EU limits.

They also found that 250,000 children live near to green spaces that had NO2 concentration levels exceeding limits, with the majority of the children affected living in the most deprived areas of the city.

The top 10 parkruns inside the M25 with the highest levels of NO2, according to the study are: 

Parkrun Location  NO2 levels (μg/m3)
Burgess parkrun 40.8
Mile End parkrun 40.4
Hackney Marshes parkrun 40.2
Southwark parkrun 39.9
Highbury Fields parkrun 39.6
Clapham Common parkrun 39.1
Finsbury parkrun 38
Victoria Dock parkrun 37.9
Wormwood Scrubs parkrun 37.6
Beckton parkrun 37

The top 10 with the cleanest air are below: 

Parkrun Location  NO2 levels (μg/m3)
Orpington parkrun 25.6
Harrow Lodge parkrun 27.2
Raphael parkrun 27.3
Riddlesdown parkrun 27.6
Hoblingwell parkrun 27.8
Foots Cray Meadows parkrun 28
Bromley parkrun 28.4
Bethlem Royal Hospital parkrun 29.4
Roundshaw Downs parkrun 29.6
Lloyd parkrun 29.7

David Holmes, founder of Boiler Guide said: ‘We wanted to put this study together to not only inform runners who are trying to keep healthy and have fun, about the impacts of running in areas of high air pollution, but to provide a further call to local councils that work must be done to address the balance.

‘This is in no way supposed to scaremonger against parkrun – parkrun is a brilliant initiative with volunteers who dedicate their own time every week to give people the opportunity to exercise in a safe space with other people, and to build a sense of community.

‘It’s just a shame that levels of pollution could be having an adverse impact on those running, and that’s something that we all need to be working towards preventing by increasing our focus on renewables and cleaner living.’