There has been a lot said about how the ULEZ extension will improve the air quality in Greater London, however these claims are not as clear as the Mayor would have you believe. Wild figures like 4,000 deaths a year have been brandished around and it just isn’t true, this link opens in YouTube and Brown Car Guy will explain how this crazy figure came about.
Most of Greater London has clean air and much of the area is actually in the countryside, so people are finding it hard to believe these toxic air claims.
Many of the claims of how the air will be improved are not backed up, even using research from Imperial College that was commissioned by TFL prior to announcing the scheme.
There has been limited improvement in the existing zone according to this Imperial College article:
Imperial College findings
However a further report has come out of Imperial College stating other side effects of air pollution (in general). There does appear to be a bit of a conflict though as their own website shows London as having clean air the majority of the time. It is worth noting that a lot of money has been paid for these reports.
This table shows the estimated impact with and without the extended ULEZ extension. As you can see there is very little difference in NO2 and no difference to PM2.5 levels. Check out the report commissioned by Transport for London. London-wide ULEZ Integrated Impact Assessment (ULEZ Scheme IIA) The table is on page 47 of the report.
Air Quality Monitoring
There are many air quality monitors around the capital, the country and the world, and this information is fed back to sites such as Imperial College London Air, Defra UK Air, IQAir, and the World Air Quality Index which give us a fascinating glimpse of air quality all over the planet. At the time or writing, although one monitoring station in north east London was showing moderate air quality, it was the PM2.5 not the notorious NO2 that was causing the average to nudge into the moderate setting. Worth keeping an eye on these sites, and don’t go to China or you’ll die within hours due to the pollution (what’s the population there again?)!
The new bad kid on the block is NO2. It’s mainly caused by ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and is responsible for everything from asthma, low infertility and dementia, but the actual levels have decreased dramatically over the past 20 years. Here’s a link to the Government Nitrogen dioxide statistics and a handy graph to show how well things are going:
So, things are not all that bad really and improving all the time. Much of the low level pollution is from PM2.5 and whilst it’s not ideal, we can live with it, and have lived with this kind of particle pollution and whilst we can endeavour to improve it where we can over time, it’s pretty much a side effect of life, so aside from walking round with our heads in bubbles of filtered air (which I fear could happen!), we do have to manage our expectations and still have vibrant lively cities and town centres, even if they are sometimes a bit grubby.