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London road breaks annual pollution limits in just 5 days

Brixton Road a 'shameful' sign of how bad pollution in the capital has become...

One road in London breached its annual air pollution limits just five days into 2017, with many others to follow in the coming days.

Nitrogen dioxide levels must not be more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) in an hour more than 18 times in a whole year.

On Thursday evening this limit was broken on Brixton Road in Lambeth.

Campaigners say the findings are ‘shameful’, and last year MPs declared the problem a ‘public health emergency’.

The Guardian reports that last year, Putney High Street exceeded the hourly limit over 1,200 times.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer at ClientEarth said: “This is another shameful reminder of the severity of London’s air pollution and shows why the mayor has rightly made tackling it a top priority. It is absolutely essential that he now delivers on his promises and that the national government back him to the hilt.

“We need immediate action to cut pollution in the short-term and protect Londoners’ health during these pollution spikes.”

A spokesman for the mayor said: “The Brixton Road [breach] underscores why urgent action is needed to improve air quality across London.” He said Khan would shortly be announcing 10 new low emission bus zones, including one for Brixton Road.

“But this is not enough,” said the spokesman. “The government needs to match the Mayor’s commitment to improving air quality as quickly as possible.”

We recently reported how cycle tracks separated from motor traffic by as little as 7m can reduce cyclists’ exposure to air pollution by 20-30 per cent, while those further from roads can cut exposure to traffic fumes by up to half, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, measured cyclists’ exposure to fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide on the road, on the pavement, and on an off-road cycle path, and found exposure decreased 20-30 per cent on the pavement and 40-50 per cent away from traffic, compared to on the road.

Professor Simon Kingham, one of the authors of the report, Potential pollution exposure reductions from small-distance bicycle lane separations, told the findings suggest segregated cycle tracks can reduce cyclists’ exposure to motor vehicle pollution, especially on busy roads.

In the experiment three cyclists rode in unison with identical monitoring equipment along a road, adjacent pavement (7m away), and an off-road path (19m away in a park) for six hours 45 minutes over five afternoons in Autumn, in the central city park area of Christchurch, New Zealand. They sampled concentrations of ultrafine particles (UFPs), carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particulate matter (PM10).

The study concluded: “Mean exposure to UFPs and CO were approximately 20–30% (po0.01) lower at the sidewalk and 40–50% lower at the path, than at the road (po0.01).

“These results highlight the potential exposure benefits of segregating cycleways, which helps inform city planning. Separating cycle lanes on key routes could help reduce cyclists' cumulative intake of pollutants, especially on heavily-trafficked roads.”

And just this week a French business announced it will this year begin selling a scarf that doubles as an air filter for cyclists and pedestrians who are concerned about pollution and also includes an air quality monitor that connects to a smartphone app.

The product, called Wair, is among thousands of new products and concepts from fledgling businesses and tech start-ups alike that will be featured at this week’s CES 2017 in Las Vegas.

As well as a unisex scarf (currently offered at €87.50), initial wearable tech products from Wair for which pre-orders are being taken on its website (link is external) include a snood aimed at women (also €87.50) and a men’s neck collar (€54.17).

Besides the initial cost of the scarf, which comes with two filters, purchasers will need to factor in the expense of replacement filters, which Wair says need to be changed between every two and four weeks and which cost from €8 to €10 on its website.

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