London already hit 2018 air pollution limit, and that's progress

People take in the view at the top of Primrose Hill in London, as the city below lies shrouded in pollution. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - London reached its annual limits on pollution less than a month into the year, which was actually an improvement on the air quality in 2017.

It took just five days into last year to surpass the European Union's hourly limits for nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

A city is allowed 18 breaches in a year, which a site in Brixton in south London reached on Tuesday (Jan 30), according to King's College London Air monitoring organisation.

It is expected to pass the yearly limit in the next day or two.

"The mayor has taken some bold and welcome steps to deal with London's toxic air problem since coming to office, and the later breach this year shows his policies are making a difference," said Simon Alcock, a spokesman for ClientEarth, a law firm that has taken theBritish government to court three times on pollution.

"It's still only a month into 2018, and London has breached limits for the whole year, which shows there's much more to do."

Britain has been breaking the European Union's rules on clean air since 2010. While the nation is in the process of leaving the trade bloc, its laws still apply until the divorce is official.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she intends to ensure that Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards.

There have been some recent initiatives by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, an asthmatic, to try to clean up the capital's air. He has enacted charges for people driving the dirtiest vehicles and has put cleaner buses on routes with especially polluted roads. He is also planning to create low-emission zones by April 2019.

"At long last, we are seeing some improvements in our toxic air, but much more needs to be done before Londoners can finally breathe a proper sigh of relief," Khan said in a statement.

London's air pollution is largely nitrogen oxide which is from vehicle exhaust.

Burning diesel emits significantly more pollutants than petrol and can have an adverse effect on human health, a raft of studies have shown. Britain's top court has ruled that the British government has broken the law by failing to adequately deal with toxic smog.

"Tougher action is needed to protect more Londoners, sooner," said Oliver Hayes, a campaigner for clean air at Friends of the Earth.

"A decent scrappage scheme to compensate diesel drivers must go hand in hand with a network of genuinely effective Clean Air Zones across the country."

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