Oxford Street is one of the most polluted places in the world, and here's why

The threat of toxic gases in our capital has been ignored for far too long

Share

We’ve just learned that our country’s showcase shopping area is a world leader - for diesel fumes.

Oxford Street is now officially known as the area with the highest known concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the world. A toxic pollutant that can trigger asthma and heart attacks.

The unique circumstances arise from the canyon-like shopping strip being permanently congested with taxis and buses, whose diesel engines release large amounts of this gas.

Now we know just how bad it really is. But for years retail and catering staff, office workers, council and utility workers, shoppers and tourists on this and other busy and polluted major roads have been unaware of the dangers and risks associated with this invisible killer.

Successive Governments and Mayors have avoided the hard steps to tackle this blight that not only affects Oxford Street, but large swathes of London.

Instead, the Government and civil service has downplayed the seriousness of the problem and systematically mislead both its own population and the European Commission.

If Boris Johnson had followed through on the emergency plans he proposed in 2010 instead of dropping them, then vulnerable Londoners would have been better protected during the recent "high" levels of pollution. Since 2009, there have been almost 30 such episodes in London. These carry official warnings for adults and children with lung and heart problems with advice to reduce physical exertion and avoid outdoor activity.

However these episodes were not communicated to the public. Its only after almost four years of rejecting numerous calls to issue smog warnings and alerting the vulnerable, that the Mayor has finally agreed to an early warning system.

According to reports, this will activate whenever pollution levels are expected to be ‘high’ and ‘very high’, aiming to reduce vehicle journeys by up to 300,000 a day.

I have urged the Mayor, as part of this early warning system, to include tailored warnings to the 1,148 schools in London within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 plus vehicle per day, alongside messages and actions that discourage the school run.

Children exposed to excessive vehicular pollution are particularly vulnerable and can suffer from permanent reduced lung capacity or develop asthma.

In fact, a third of new cases of asthma are believed to be as a result of air pollution. We must not only fix Oxford Street but sort out the 28 towns, cities and regions across the UK which suffer from bad air.

Unlike the Government, Boris Johnson does have at least one big idea for doing something. His Ultra Low Emission Zone will only allow the cleanest vehicles into central London.

However, it is due to start in 6 years’ time and will only deal with 7 per cent of the total of London main roads which will still be over the legal limits in 2020. Sadly, the Mayor is proposing a solution for his successor to carry out, which will deal with only a small fraction of the problem.

There are plenty of things we can do immediately to turn Oxford Street into a showcase to be proud of. We must have a rapid switch to trams, electric buses and taxis. We also need to follow in the footsteps of New York, which has a range of popular traffic free days to promote its main shopping area.

Don’t get fooled by a Government or politicians who say they are doing all they can. It's rubbish. We know how to reduce traffic and we know how to make cleaner vehicles. All you need to make Britain healthier is the political will to deliver a safer, less polluted environment.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific