Report finding air pollution kills 9,500 Londoners revives Mayor’s opposition to Heathrow runway
A new study by Kings College, London, commissioned by the GLA and TfL, has shown that London’s pollution killed 9,500 people in 2010. It showed that about there were about 3,537 early deaths in 2010 due to PM2.5s, and about 5,879 deaths from NO2 (ie a total of about 9,416 in 2010. NO2 is largely created by diesel cars, lorries and buses, and affects lung capacity and growth. The findings have prompted Boris to renew his calls for abandoning the expansion of Heathrow Airport on air quality grounds, saying: “My greatest priority remains to protect the well-being and environment of Londoners.” Roads around Heathrow are among those in breach of EU rules. Johnson’s office said that the latest study means “the government must now rule out expansion of Heathrow.” But Boris has also said that he will not resign as Mayor, or as MP for Uxbridge, if the Conservative party back a Heathrow 3rd runway. He had earlier said he would lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop it. Now he says the runway plan is “crackers” and “I don’t think the Heathrow third-runway option has ever been credible … It’s just going to be politically undeliverable, and we need a better long-term solution.” But Zac Goldsmith has said he would resign as an MP, and stand as an independent, if the Tories back the Heathrow runway.
Pollution Killing 9,500 Londoners Revives Mayor’s Heathrow Plea
by Alex Morales (Bloomberg News)
London’s pollution killed 9,500 people in 2010, the first study to quantify the full danger showed, prompting Mayor Boris Johnson to renew his calls for abandoning the expansion of Heathrow Airport on air quality grounds.
About 5,900 deaths were the result of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant produced by diesel engines, according to the report released on Wednesday by King’s College London for the mayor’s office. The remainder were due to particulate pollution known as PM2.5s.
“I need the help and strong support of the government and the EU to effectively win London’s pollution battle and target the enormous amount of toxic air transported into our great capital,” Johnson said. “My greatest priority remains to protect the well-being and environment of Londoners.”
The study is the first to quantify deaths from NO2, a gas whose emissions authorities in London have struggled to contain as the use of diesel engines spreads. The capital has been in breach of European Union limits on NO2 since 2010, and the government projects it won’t comply until at least 2030, opening the country up to legal action and fines from EU authorities.
“Evidence on the health effects of nitrogen dioxide has strengthened in recent years, including evidence linking long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide with mortality,” said Heather Walton, an environmental researcher at King’s College. “It is now thought that there is an additional effect beyond that previously quantified for the effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5.”
Roads around Heathrow, the most busy U.K. airport, are among those in breach of EU rules. Johnson’s office said that the latest study means “the government must now rule out expansion of Heathrow.”
Heathrow Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said on July 1 that the hub’s plans will meet air-quality rules. The government’s Airports Commission two weeks ago said the hub presents the “strongest case” for expansion of airport capacity in southeast England.
The Airports Commission left a final decision in the hands of Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, which is split on the issue. Cameron has said he’ll make a decision by the end of the year.
Johnson has brought in measures to clean up the exhausts of taxis and the capital’s bus fleet. He’s also planning an “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” for central London, which will encourage vehicles to be low- or zero-emissions from 2020.
Understanding the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in London
For: Transport for London and the Greater London Authority
By: Heather Walton, David Dajnak, Sean Beevers, Martin Williams, Paul Watkiss and Alistair Hunt (Kings College, London)
Date: 14th July 2015
Johnson Wouldn’t Quit Over Heathrow, Says Plan Still Non-Starter
by Kari Lundgren and Christopher Jasper
17.7.2015 (Bloomberg Business)
London Mayor Boris Johnson lowered the stakes in his personal campaign to block growth at Heathrow airport, saying he won’t resign from City Hall or give up his parliamentary seat if expansion plans go ahead.
Speaking in an interview Friday, Johnson reiterated his opposition to a project he’s called “crackers.” But he said he wouldn’t feel it necessary to step down should Prime Minister David Cameron, his Conservative Party colleague, decide to act on a government-commissioned study recommending a new runway be built at Heathrow.
“I don’t think the Heathrow third-runway option has ever been credible,” Johnson said on Bloomberg Television. “It’s just going to be politically undeliverable, and we need a better long-term solution,” he said. “I certainly won’t be resigning as an MP, nor indeed as mayor of London, and I will be keeping my powder dry on any other positions I may wish to resign from.”
“I don’t think the Heathrow third-runway option has ever been credible”
Johnson’s reluctance to put his career on the line over Heathrow contrasts with the stance of Zac Goldsmith, a fellow Tory lawmaker from west London. Goldsmith said after publication of the Airports Commission’s findings that he’d resign his parliamentary seat under the Heathrow flightpath and stand again on an anti-expansion ticket if Cameron breaks a previous pledge not to sanction a new runway.
Goldsmith is also bidding to be the Conservative candidate for mayor when Johnson steps down in 2016.
Cameron has said he’ll take a decision in the fall on whether to develop Heathrow into a 135 million-passenger-a-year superhub at a cost of 18 billion pounds ($28 billion) following the verdict of a study he ordered in 2012.
Johnson, who attends cabinet meetings on political issues after Cameron gave his potential successor a government role following May’s election, had lobbied for a completely new airport in the Thames estuary — dubbed Boris Island by the U.K. media — on the grounds that it would have less of an impact on people in terms of noise and pollution.
That option was dismissed early on by the Airports Commission as too costly and complex and likely to have a more detrimental impact on the natural environment.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and other senior Conservatives back Heathrow, as do key figures in the Labour opposition. Johnson declined to comment on his own ambitions to replace Cameron, or those of Osborne, who he said is doing a “superb job.”
and it continues.
Counting impact of toxic gas NO2 for the first time suggests more than twice as many people as previously thought die prematurely from pollution in UK capital
By Adam Vaughan
Nearly 9,500 people die early each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to new research.
The premature deaths are due to two key pollutants, fine particulates known as PM2.5s and the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2), according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London.
The study – which was commissioned by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London – is believed to be the first by any city in the world to attempt to quantify how many people are being harmed by NO2. The gas is largely created by diesel cars, lorries and buses, and affects lung capacity and growth.
London, Birmingham, and Leeds are among the UK cities that have been in breach of EU safety limits on NO2 for five years, prompting legal action that led to a supreme court ruling in April that the government must publish a clean-up plan by the end of the year.
Previous research attributed 4,267 annual premature deaths to PM2.5s in 2008, based on 2006 levels of the particulates.
Subsequent falls in those particulates and a change in methodology that excludes natural sources of the pollutant sees that figure fall to 3,537 for 2010 levels of PM2.5s in the new study.
However that fall is more than cancelled out by the addition of an estimated 5,879 deaths from NO2 each year, bringing the total early deaths from both pollutants in 2010 to 9,416.
Matthew Pencharz, the deputy mayor for environment and energy, said that local authorities could only do so much and the government needed to step in. “It’s [the new research] an important message for government, where the supreme court judgment has already focused minds.”
Although the report found that a larger proportion of deaths caused by PM2.5 were from particulates that originated outside the city than within it, it found that most of the deaths linked to NO2 were because of NO2 emissions from diesel vehicles and other sources within the capital.
Last year, mayor Boris Johnson came in for criticism after a King’s researcher published figures showing Oxford Street had the worst NO2 levels in the world, largely because of its high concentration of diesel buses. The mayor later called for a diesel scrappage scheme to tackle pollution in the capital.
But Pencharz said London was a pioneer when it came to tackling air pollution, with the mayor due to introduce an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in 2020 that will see the most polluting HGVs and coaches charged £100 to enter.
“No other city is doing half what we’re doing, when it comes to the ULEZ which is a world first, zero emissions taxis which is a world first, the regulations on construction equipment due in September,” he said.
But campaigners said the evidence showed the need for more action. Alan Andrews, a lawyer at the NGO ClientEarth, which brough the case which lead to the supreme court ruling, said: “This new research piles more pressure on the government to come up with a clear and credible plan to cut pollution from diesel vehicles.”
He added: “As shocking as they are, these deaths are really only the tip of the iceberg. For every person who dies early from air pollution, many more are made seriously ill, have to visit hospital or take time off work.”
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, impairs child lung development and increases the risk of hospitalisation among people with a pre-existing lung condition. It is time we stop talking and take immediate action to prevent more people being needlessly killed by the air that they breathe.”
Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “People have no choice with the air they breathe. This means we have to redouble our efforts, stop tinkering around the edges, and take really bold immediate action with a mix of cleaner vehicles and cutting traffic levels, massive investment in safe cycling and walking, and London-wide road charging.”
On Tuesday, the London Assembly’s environment committee published a report blaming diesel vehicles for the capital’s NO2 problem. Assembly member Stephen Knight, who is on the committee, said: “As petrol engines become cleaner with time it’s becoming clear that diesel emissions are a large part of the problem.”
The study also looked at the impact of short-term exposure to PM2.5s and NO2 during high pollution episodes, such as the one that affected much of England in April, and found that 2,411 hospital admissions for respiratory problems a year could be blamed on the pollutants.
The government’s scientific advisers on the issue, the committee on the medical effects of air pollutants, are expected to conclude later this year that across Britain up to 60,000 early deaths annually can be attributed to the two pollutants, because NO2 will be factored in for the first time. The figure would represent a doubling on the current 29,000 from PM2.5s, and would put air pollution much closer to smoking, which kills around 100,000 people a year.
A King’s study due to be published in the autumn is expected to put the figure for deaths annually in the UK for the two pollutants at 80,000 compared to London’s 9,416, Pencharz told the Guardian.
The mayor launched a consultation today on measures for boroughs to tackle pollution hotspots. All but two boroughs, Bromley and Sutton, failed to meet EU limits on NO2 in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.
TfL announced on Wednesday that two bus routes, the 507 and 521, will be run by 51 100% electric buses from next year, which do not have any tailpipe emissions. The first fully electric double decker bus will enter service in October, Johnson said last month.