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Call for action on ‘deadly impact’ of air pollution in Islington

Report reveals 60% of borough exceeds legal limits

07 February, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

GREEN activists have rounded on the council after a Town Hall report showed that legal limits on air pollution are exceeded in more than 60 per cent of the borough.

Islington Council’s actions following its declaration of a climate emergency last year were again called into question this week with the publication of a report on air pollution in the borough.

Extinction Rebellion activists said the council is failing to “appropriately inform its residents of the deadly impact” air pollution has while a spokeswoman for Islington Clean Air Parents (ICAP) said they cannot see a “clear commitment” from the council to take action.

Both groups urged the council to undertake a dramatic overhaul of its policy on traffic to cut the journeys taken by cars and heavy goods vehicles by “at least half”.

The data shows that a majority of illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is found in the south of the borough and on the main roads.

Helena Farstad, who co-founded ICAP, said: “Every year up to 9,000 people die prematurely in London as a result of air pollution.

“Over 60 per cent of Islington borough exceeds legal air pollution limits. Reducing traffic by at least half is the only way to significantly reduce the impact this has on children’s health and well-being.

Cllr Caroline Russell has called on the council to reduce its fleet of vehicles that circle the borough

“It is disappointing that we still can’t see a clear commitment from the council to take meaning­ful action on this critical issue [air pollution].”

The legal limit set by EU law is that at any given moment there should not be more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre of NO2 in the air.

In areas of Clerkenwell and Finsbury that figure reaches about 50 micrograms, according to the council figures.

Diesel cars are a primary cause of nitrogen dioxide and the figures show a steep rise in NO2 in Islington after the government in 2001 introduced a tax that encouraged people to buy diesel cars.

This spiked in 2008 and the levels of NO2 has fallen since.

A spokesman for the Islington branch of Extinction Rebellion said: “Islington Council is not telling the truth as it fails to appropriately inform its residents of the deadly impact air pollution has on our health.

“The council is also not acting with the required urgency, as the proposed strategy does not include measures that will actively reduce the main sources of air pollution – transport, construction and commercial cooking.

“Sadly we do not breath the same air.

“Our toxic air disproportionately affects the poorest – who tend to live on busier roads – and the most vulnerable in our borough.

“It is now time for the borough’s elected councillors to take a stand, address this huge issue head-on and listen to the people on how to go about it.”

As the Tribune previously reported, Islington’s sole Green councillor Cllr Caroline Russell called on the council to reduce its fleet of vehicles that circle the borough.

Cllr Rowena Champion, the Town Hall’s environment chief, said: “Although air quality has steadily improved in Islington over the last decade, it remains a serious public health issue and the council is working extremely hard to address it in our borough with the tools that are available to us.

“Our ambitious Air Quality Strategy sets out targets and a raft of bold actions for the coming years to tackle air pollution, which goes hand-in-hand with many other council activities to improve air quality.

“For example, Islington was the first borough to install air quality monitoring tubes at all local schools.

“We’ve implemented 13 ‘School Streets’ – more than anywhere else in the country.”

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