Urgent warning issued to Londoners over 'extremely dangerous toxic air'

23 March 2022, 16:47 | Updated: 23 March 2022, 16:52

The Mayor of London has triggered a 'high' air pollution alert for Wednesday and Thursday
The Mayor of London has triggered a 'high' air pollution alert for Wednesday and Thursday. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Mayor of London has triggered a 'high' air pollution alert for Wednesday and Thursday as London experiences "imported pollution from the continent" alongside a build-up of local emissions.

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This is the first ‘high’ pollution alert that the Mayor has issued since August 2020 and people with health conditions are being asked to avoid "physical exertion".

Sadiq Khan, said: "Toxic air is extremely dangerous for Londoners – and I’m doing everything in my power to tackle it. Today we have seen the capital experiencing high levels of air pollution and are expecting this to continue for two days.

"For this reason, I am issuing a 'high' air pollution alert from today until Thursday.

"I'm urging Londoners to look after each other by choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport, avoiding unnecessary car journeys, stopping engine idling and not burning wood or garden waste, all of which contributes to high levels of pollution.

"This is particularly important in order to protect those who are more vulnerable to high pollution. While this alert is in place people with heart and lung problems should avoid physical exertion."

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Earlier this month the London Mayor announced plans to expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of London.

Drivers of older, more polluting vehicles are currently being charged to enter an area inside London's north and south-circular orbital roads.

But new proposals unveiled today will see the scheme extend to the edges of London's outer boroughs in 2023.

Non-compliant vehicles will have to pay £12.50 on top of the congestion charge, where applicable.

Mr Khan said he believed it is the right cause of action to bring down pollution despite it being "politically unpopular".

He said: "The triple challenges of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion mean we need to further reduce emissions from vehicles in London.

"This is also a matter of social justice - with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest.

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"I believe the proposal to extend the ULEZ London-wide will have the biggest effect on emissions and congestion relative to the potential financial impact on Londoners as a whole."

City Hall estimates extending the ULEZ will reduce the number of the most polluting cars on roads in London by between 20,000 and 40,000 vehicles per day, will cut harmful NOx emissions from cars and vans by 10% in outer London and will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 150k tonnes in outer London.

Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell tweeted: "So good to see plans for a London-wide ULEZ at last. It will help reduce health inequality in our city."