3 June 2005

Strict EU air pollution limits are being breached in central London according to the government’s own monitoring stations. As of the beginning of 2005, levels of tiny PM10 particulates in the air must not breach a fixed limit more than 35 days each year. An air-quality monitoring station on London’s Marylebone Road has found the limit has been breached on at least 36 days already this year. Other areas, including Camden in North London, are likely to breach the limits later this year. It’s thought that more-extensive monitoring would reveal that the problem could be widespread in the capital.

PM10s are mainly produced by diesel engines and have been blamed for a range of health problems, including respiratory diseases and even thousands of premature deaths.

The news undermines the environmental claims made for the central London congestion-charge zone. Opponents argue that a large proportion of vehicles still using the zone are diesel-powered, including buses, lorries and commercial vehicles. Many global cities have already ensured most public transport is powered by LPG instead of diesel. Other cities in developing nations are currently shifting to LPG and CNG-powered vehicles.

Reaction to the problem has so far been muted, despite the fact that the EU can fine the UK government for the breaches of the regulations.

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