London on the Brink of a Public Health Emergency

Publication Date: 5th October 2017

Subject: Public health

Following yesterday’s publication of the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, it is now clear that the capital is on the verge of a public health emergency, with figures showing that every person in London is breathing air that goes beyond global guidelines for dangerous toxic particles.

The report highlighted that every area in the capital exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for PM2.5, a very damaging air particle. Not only that, but 95% of Londoners live in areas that exceed the limit by a shocking 50% or more.  

It has been known for years that particulates PM10, PM2.5, and even finer particles, are a significant threat, and that, crucially, there is no safe level. However, in recent years, the Government has only focussed on NO2 levels, and even then it has only done so due to being forced through the courts.  

Professor Frank Kelly, the Government’s air pollution adviser, has now drawn further attention to the crisis by saying that all cars, including those run on electricity, will have to be banned or deterred by high entry charges on many roads just to meet the Mayor of London’s new air quality target.

The call to pedestrianise or bar large parts of London to cars during the day comes because particulates are produced by brakes and tyres.

Responding to the report, Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

“This report lays bare the air quality crisis that is now affecting every single Londoner. Particulates are a grave threat to the people of our capital, and there is no safe level. It is imperative that the Government finally wakes up and takes note.

Professor Frank Kelly is an expert in his field, and his warning only adds further strength to the argument that something has to be done.

We repeat our call to government, that there simply must be a new Clean Air Act to address this deepening public health catastrophe.  It is unacceptable for the country to continue to rely on legislation that was created to tackle smoke and SO2 emissions from coal burning in the 1950’s and 60’s.”


Notes to editors 

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About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing more than 9,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. 

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. The CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.  

For more information visit and follow the CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH



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