Londoners’ lungs need a break. Although we may choose to smoke a pack down the pub every weekend, we shouldn’t have to deal with seriously high levels of air pollution too. That’s why new plans have been revealed for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover most of the city.
The ULEZ aims to reduce the amount of toxic nitrogen dioxide in the air caused by vehicles. So far, the zone has halved the amount of the lethal gas in central London. From August 23, it could expand beyond the inner boundaries of the North and South Circular roads to cover the majority of London.
Last month, a study from Imperial College London and the Central Office of Public Interest revealed that 97 per cent of UK homes have air pollution above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. And thanks to the sheer amount of cars on our roads, as well as our frankly terrible traffic, this affects Londoners disproportionately.
Nitrogen dioxide can pose serious health threats such as reducing lung function and exacerbating asthma in children. According to London Air, dirty air is responsible for up to 9,400 extra deaths in the city every year. And not just in the city centre. In 2020, nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as their cause of death. Adoo-Kissi-Debrah lived near the busy South Circular in Lewisham, which contributed to her deadly asthma.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who is proposing the enlarged ULEZ, said it was ‘the right thing to do’. He added: ‘The air Londoners breathe is so toxic it stunts children’s lungs, exacerbates chronic illness and contributes to thousands of premature deaths each year.’
Alex Williams, director of city planning at Transport for London, said: ‘We must act at pace to tackle this, which is why we are proposing to expand the ULEZ Londonwide next year and are looking at the longer-term solution of a new form of road-user charging.’