Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Even London’s Green Spaces Aren’t Safe From Air Pollution

  • Parks in the capital surpass EU limits, data on website show
  • 10,000 people in London died early from air pollution in 2015

London is famous for its numerous parks and gardens, but even those green spaces aren’t safe from pollution.

The air in many city parks surpass legal limits for nitrogen oxide set by the European Union, according to data website Asiopendata.com. The pollutant is largely from vehicle exhaust.

The finding’s support Mayor Sadiq Khan’s effort to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda as officials in the central government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs have sought to slow the pace of implementing EU pollution limits. The government has said it’s unable to meet 2010 rules until at least 2025.

“It’s shocking to learn that even in London’s supposedly green spaces, the air we breathe is unsafe,” said Sophie Neuburg, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “No-one suspects that when they have a summer picnic, they are actually breathing in fumes which are linked to heart disease and cancer.”

Asiopendata’s pollution map, with darker circles showing worse air. Source: London Datastore, GiGL, Pablo Mosteiro

The issue is the most serious in central London, the website’s map showed, even in larger green areas such as Hyde Park, Green Park and Regent’s Park. High concentrations of nitrogen oxide also extend to an area bordered by Holloway to the north, Brixton in the south, Shepherd’s Bush westward and Blackwall to the east.

London has repeatedly broken EU air-quality rules. It took the city just eight days in 2016 to surpass the annual cap on nitrogen dioxide concentrations. The World Heath Organization estimates air pollution costs the U.K. 62 billion pounds ($83 billion) per year.

“With nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up London’s toxic air is now an issue of life and death,” Khan said.

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