APPG for London - Air Quality briefing

  • By selina.young

The meeting on 28 June 2016 explored issues around air quality in London. Research suggests that the current situation is leading to premature deaths – and more than was initially feared. This will affect all residents but particularly young and old, as well as those with respiratory problems. The challenge in London is that air quality respects no borough or constituency boundaries. As such it will be necessary to bring together all levels of government in London in order to help shape policies and actions to improve the situation. The APPG was particularly keen to schedule this meeting at an early stage in the new Mayor’s administration.

Among the ideas that are being discussed that could help the situation are:

  • Introducing a national scrappage scheme for the most polluting vehicles.
  • Continuing to support research and development, including into Euro 6 retrofit options and viable ultra-low emission heavy goods vehicles (given the proportion of total emissions in London from these vehicles identified in Defra’s analysis).
  • The impact on air quality when introducing changes to planning policy and legislation and allow planning authorities to refuse permission for schemes that would result in poorer air quality or result in unacceptable levels of exposure for new residents. 


Set out below are a number of recent studies and briefing papers that will help to give you some background information to the issue and an understanding of the issues and causes of the pollution.

London Councils member briefing, August 2015
London Local Air Quality Management

Recent new evidence from King’s College London suggests that air pollution is leading to more premature deaths in London than previously feared. This, as well as recent court cases and the threat of more legal action to come, has helped push the issue of air quality higher up the national and local agenda. With these issues in mind, the Mayor launched a consultation in 2015 on how boroughs and City Hall will work together in the future to monitor air pollution, agree areas to focus on and plan actions to reduce emissions. This proposed system, called London Local Air Quality Management (LLAQM), is explored in this briefing. 

See link to paper here

London Councils' focus on ‘Air Quality’, May 2016 
London’s local authorities have been taking measures to improve air quality in London since the nineteenth century, including implementing measures in the Clean Air Acts that followed the great smogs of 1952. This paper describes London Councils’ focus and actions in this policy area.
See link to paper here 

Understanding the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in London
Paper by Kings College London for the Greater London Authority, July 2015

This report estimates the mortality burden of concentrations of fine particles (PM2.5) in London in 2010 as an update to the Institute of Occupational Medicine report on PM2.5 mortality using 2006 concentrations (Miller, 2010). In addition, for the first time, emerging techniques have been used to assess the mortality burden of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in London, following on from WHO recommendations (WHO, 2013b). WHO acknowledged uncertainty in the evidence so the associated figures are considered approximate and need to be used with care. The mortality burden is expressed as life-years lost across the population as a result of deaths in 2010 (a life year is one year lost for one person). 
See link to paper here

Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London
Paper by Aether for Greater London Authority, May 2016

Air quality in London has improved in recent years as a result of policies to reduce emissions, primarily from road transport. However, maps for pollution concentrations show exceedances of the annual average Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and the daily PM10 EU Limit Values. The research described in this 2013 report considers changes in pollution exposure in London in recent years, including at schools, predictions for future years and considers how exposure relates to deprivation.
See link to paper here 

Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution
Public Health England paper, April 2014

The increase in mortality risk associated with long-term exposure to particulate air pollution is one of the most important, and best-characterised, effects of air pollution on health. This report estimates the size of this effect on mortality in local authority areas in the UK. It discusses the concepts and assumptions underlying these calculations and gives information on how such estimates can be made. Estimates of the fraction of mortality attributable to long-term exposure to particulate air pollution range from around 2.5% in rural Scotland, to 3-5% in Wales and over 8% in some London boroughs. Measures to reduce levels  of particulate air pollution or to reduce exposure of the population to such pollution are regarded as an important public health initiative. 

See link to paper here