Highest levels of air-borne pollution in London for seven years alarm scientists

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The Independent Online

Air pollution in London has reached its highest level for seven years. Scientists from King's College London said they were "alarmed" at levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and PM10 particulates from exhaust fumes over the past six months.

Pollution has reached dangerous levels more times this year than in all of 2002 and in some areas it has been worse than at any time in the past two years combined.

Levels have risen because the wind has brought pollution from France and the Netherlands and still weather in the South-east has led to a concentration of toxins.

The Environmental Research Group (ERG), which monitors air quality for London, Kent, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, said the problem was affecting much of south-east England. Professor Frank Kelly, director of the ERG, said: "It is very clear that the first six months of this year have been very different to the last seven years. It is quite alarming because of the effect that this has on people's health."

In the first six months of this year, air pollution in London has far exceeded safe levels set by the European Union. The EU limits allow for 35 days a year of excessive levels of the particulate PM10 but there have already been 90 days of dangerously high levels this year.

The worst areas are Marylebone Road, where safety limits have been exceeded on 90 days, Old Kent Road (46) and Shaftesbury Avenue (37). The hottest day of the year was Thursday when it was 29.3C (85F) in central London.