Londoners including some who live in the most exclusive postcodes are breathing in dangerous levels of pollutants, it was revealed today.
Postcode-level data from scientists at Kings College London showing the level of nitrogen dioxide in the capital’s atmosphere has been made available to the public via a new website.
It shows large areas including Southwark and Wembley – as well as posh streets in expensive Chelsea and Regent’s Park – suffer from pollution which greatly exceeds the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit of 40microgrammes per cubic metre of air.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is emitted by vehicle exhausts, factories and power plants and is now considered the cause of more deaths and health problems than smoking.
NO2 has been linked to dementia, infertility, slow childhood development, autism, obesity, miscarriage, depression, psychosis and decreased life expectancy.
The creators of www.addresspollution.org, the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI), are now recommending homebuyers and renters demand discounts of up to 20 per cent to live the most polluted areas – which could slash house prices by £200,000 or more.
In SE1 in Southwark, London’s most polluted postcode, levels of nitrogen dioxide are two-and-a-half times the WHO recommended limit of 40mg per m3, at 102.05, while in in the TN14 postcode – villages near Sevenoaks just outside the M25 – levels are only around 25mg per m3
Worst polluted areas
1. Southwark SE1
2. Wembley NW10
3. Camden NW1
4. Slough SL0
5. Leamouth E14
Least polluted areas
1. Sevenoaks TN14
2. Biggin Hill TN16
3. Upminster RM14
4. Oxted RH8
5. Sevenoaks TN13
The new website gives an air pollution rating of one to five for each home in its database – and reveals some streets have different NO2 levels from one end of the road to the other.
The site gives its maximum score, a ‘5’, to houses in areas with pollution at least 50 per cent above the legal limit, ie over 60mg per cubic metre.
The rating system uses data from King’s College London, giving levels of nitrogen dioxide accurate to 20sqm.
According to the WHO there is no healthy level of NO2 but anything above 40microgrammes per cubic metre breaches the legal limit and will be given a ‘significant pollution’ rating on addresspollution.org and be shown to lead to an 11 per cent increased risk of disease-related mortality.
London neighbourhoods that rank at this level include The Mall, Notting Hill as well as Regents Park home to famous names including the royal family, David Beckham and Daniel Craig.
Areas with air pollution above 80microgrammes/m3, which leads to a 33 per cent increased risk in disease related mortality, include wealthy Chelsea and Westminster, where COPI is targeting homebuyers with billboards saying: ‘These houses cost an arm, leg and lung.’
COPI is targeting polluted areas of London with billboards to coincide with the launch of their website www.addresspollution.org
Parts of Chelsea and Westminster have NOP2 levels over 80 microgrammes/m3 which is double the legal limit and has been shown to increase disease-related mortality by a third
Humphrey Milles, founder of the Central Office for Public Interest, said: ‘Air pollution is killing people across the country, and London is worst hit – but people don’t believe it will affect them personally.
Professor Frank Kelly of KCL said the public needed to be better informed about pollution
‘The Air Quality Rating is a tool to change these perceptions and show just how real, and dangerous, air pollution is across the capital, including in some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods.
‘I urge every Londoner to check the Air Quality Rating for their address, get informed and take action.
‘Sign the petition and demand immediate action from your council and local MP.’
Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health at KCL, said: ‘Many people don’t learn about air pollution levels and the health consequences until after they have suffered its effects.
‘With an Air Quality rating for every house in the country using the latest data provided by King’s, this will enable the public to better understand the air quality at their own front door, and equip them with an understanding of how best to improve their local air quality.’
COPI’s public information campaign seeks to shine a light on pollution in the capital
The website www.addresspollution.org provides pollution levels street-by-street and house-by-house and encourages homeowners to demand actioni
The report suggests house prices across the city could plummet, by as much as £256,000 in Chelsea £66,000 in Tower Hamlets and £146,000 in Islington.
The forecast falls are based on a stoudy showing 76 per cent of Londoners believe that discounts should apply to properties available to rent or buy in areas that breach legal limits for air pollution and are likely to have a negative impact on occupants’ health.
The dangerous effects of Nitrogen Dioxide
Recent studies into Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have concluded the gas, emitted by vehicle exhausts and power plants, causes more deaths than smoking. NO2 has also been linked to:
Lower IQs in children
Children doing worse in memory tests
Delaying the development of children’s communication skills and coordination
Increased childhood anxiety
Increased risk of autism
Increased risk of asthma
Increased risk of childhood obesity
Earlier age of female infertility
Increased risk of male infertility
Increased risk of breast cancer
Increased risk of miscarriage
Increased risk of erectile dysfunction
Increased risk of depression
Increased risk of psychosis
Two-year reduction in life expectancy
Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: ‘Estate agents are legally obliged to declare material issues that could affect the price of a house to a buyer.
‘The legal argument about air pollution goes that it isn’t a material issue so does not need to be flagged.
‘This needs to be addressed and I am urging estate agents to lead the change… Air quality is now public information and it will never not be again. This is going to be industry standard. It’s inevitable.’
The UK has a poor record for air pollution with 37 cities persistently recording illegal levels.
In London, more than two million people live in areas with illegally high levels of air toxins.
Scientists now say breathing in toxic air caused by vehicle exhaust fumes, factories and power plants is responsible for more deaths than smoking.
Currently 36,000 Britons a year die to air pollution, costing the country £20billion annually in healthcare.
A further 29,000 people die with a range of illnesses linked to air pollution such as cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Diesel cars have been promoted since the 1970s as an environmentally-friendly choice because they emit less carbon dioxide, and the Blair Labour government incentivised purchases with generous tax breaks, contributing to the number of diesel drivers jumping from 1.5million a decade ago to about 11million today.
But in recent years scientists have realised that diesel also produces more microparticles, and more nitrogen oxides, which are extremely damaging to health.