What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the concentration of particles and noxious gases in the air we breathe, which has a negative impact on the environment and on our health.

Why does air pollution matter?

Air pollution has a major public health impact causing around 9,500 premature deaths a year in London. Air pollution can also cause cancer, stroke, heart and lung diseases, brain ageing and low birth weight. Children, older people and those with respiratory and other long-term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to air pollution.

Levels of pollutants are worst in central London and along busy roads and junctions. Many schools in Brent are situated on busy roads where there are high levels of pollution. Diesel road traffic is responsible for around 40% of London’s nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide (known collectively as NO x ) emissions as well as its PM 10 3 . Everyone who uses, lives or works near busy roads is subject to potentially harmful levels of pollution. This is why efforts to improve the situation need to focus on diesel road traffic.

What are public authorities doing?

The UK Government set out its Air Quality Plan in 2017. The proposals contained in government’s plan have been widely condemned as inadequate. The environmental law firm, ClientEarth, persists in challenging and defeating the government in the courts over the inadequacy of its air quality plans.

The London Mayor has pollution on the agenda, has implemented charges for older diesel vehicles in the Congestion Zone from October 2017 and is gradually updating the bus fleet. The Mayor introduced the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019. There are separate regimes in London for buses, taxis and commercial vehicles. Brent Council is making an effort to tackle the problem.