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London Air Worse Than Frankfurt’s, Beats Athens: Chart of Day

London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, missed European Union air pollution goals three days a week on average in 2008, almost five times more failures than is allowed by EU law and seven times as often as Frankfurt.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows London’s number of “days in exceedance” for particle pollution was 156 in 2008, the most recent year for EU air-quality data. That compares with 22 in Frankfurt and 35 for the bloc’s regulatory limit.

London hasn’t dipped below 100 violations in any of the eight most recent years of data. Athens missed the target every year since 2001 except 2004, when it was the last European city to host the Summer Olympics. The pollutants can hamper breathing and stem from vehicle emissions, construction sites, factories, dust and sea salt. Volcanic ash can also contribute.

“Worryingly, it looks likely that air-quality laws will be breached in London every year up to and including the 2012 Olympics,” said Simon Birkett, founder of the Campaign for Clean Air in London. An estimated 4,300 people die each year in London from long-term exposure to dangerous particles, he said.

Failure to meet the EU goals in force since 2005 could result in fines of 300 million pounds ($449 million). The European Commission in December rejected the U.K.’s request for a compliance extension until 2011. After Mayor Boris Johnson published a new air strategy for London in March, the U.K. now plans to re-apply for an extension for the capital by summer.

The figures for 2009 are due in September, and new measuring methods may help London. One monitoring station, at Marylebone Road, recorded 115 breaches in 2009 using techniques in place since the 1990s, according to the London Air Quality Network website. Under the new system, that would fall to 60 and the 21 violations so far this year would be reduced to 14.

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