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London's air pollution no better off than other countries

London may have a low emissions zone, a congestion charge zone and hybrid buses, but diesel vehicles are pumping out harmful emissions like nitrogen dioxide.

LONDON: Asian cities like Beijing and Mumbai are often singled out for high levels of air pollution but some other, quite surprising locations, also suffer form poor air quality.

London may have a low emissions zone, a congestion charge zone and hybrid buses, but diesel vehicles are pumping out harmful emissions like nitrogen dioxide, of which the city has the highest levels in Europe.

With severe consequences for residents' health, experts say far more needs to be done to clean up London's air.

Pollutants in the air in London far exceed World Health Organisation and European Union limits, and are proving extremely dangerous to the health of residents.

Professor Martin Williams, Air Quality Research at King's College London, said: "These particles are very small, they get in to the lungs, the respiratory system and do damage throughout the body."

At King's College in London, the air quality research team gather data from more than 100 monitoring stations around London.

Measures to curb pollution have not been as effective as hoped.

Across central London, levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed limits considered safe by the European Union, and it is at main roads that experts say pollution is at dangerously high levels.

The issue is of great concern to those living and working in London.

For those travelling in cars, the health impact is far worse than for those who walk, as they are directly breathing in fumes from the car in front.

Cyclists also exposed to the exhaust of diesel vehicles, but the health benefits of exercise far outweigh the damaging effects of the pollution.

But it is the effects on children which are particularly alarming.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London are carrying out studies on the lungs of children living in highly-polluted areas.

Dr Rossa Brugha, Clinical Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, said: "We have looked at the total number of particles, the mass of particles children a berthing in a day, children in central London are breathing in the same as half a cigarette a day.

"Their lungs do not grow to the size they should, increasing the likelihood they will have breathing problems earlier in later adulthood. Over 29,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are attributed to air pollution. Experts say far more needs to be done to tackle air pollution, if that numbers is to fall."

Recommendations include electrifying the entire bus and taxi fleet, expanding the congestion charge zone and making the criteria for the low emission zone more stringent.

Only then will the country's capital be on the road to having a cleaner and safer air. 

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