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An air of pollution

It is a mix of CO, NO2 and CO2. When you are walking along London’s busy streets, the unpleasant smell fills your nasal cavity.

Air pollution is always a headache for the capital. Stuck in central London, a breath of fresh air is the most luxurious thing you can imagine.

Emission from heavy traffic is the major contribution to London’s air pollution. The convenience brought by modern transport costs people their health in return.

London used to be renowned for its smog, which was a sign of severe air pollution and things are not getting any better.

A recent report shows that London ranks as one of the worst air polluted cities as it has done little to tackle heavy vehicle emissions.

Missing targets

The city has consistently failed to meet targets and timetables to reduce both the quantity of soot in the London air (PM10s) and of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): a gas emitted mainly from burning diesel fuel.

The government is facing a huge fine for bleaching European air quality rules. It is also accused of putting “thousands of lives at risk over air pollution failures”.

For some people, choosing between a bike and a car has become a dilemma.
Joan, who mostly drives but sometimes rides a bike to work, says: “I want to cycle more often, because it’s green and can avoid traffic congestion. But in the meantime, I’m exposed to the polluted air when cycling.” She says she is considering buying a filter mask.

Worries are the same for those who jog alongside roads. Jerry, a regular jogger, believes jogging in highly polluted areas “does more harm than good”. So he always chooses to work out in parks where the air quality is much better.

A report by a committee of MPs says that UK air pollution causes 50,000 early deaths a year. The health damage caused by air pollution is much bigger than people thought.

Olympic concerns

London’s air pollution has raised more concerns with the 2012 Olympics approaching. An artist’s film called Double Pendulum shows that air pollution is to put Olympic athletes at risk.

East London, where the Olympic Park is located, is one of the city's most air polluted areas with an expanding airport and some of the busiest roads in Britain, according to the Guardian.

The city is facing a fine of up to £175 million if it continues to breach air pollution laws by the time the Olympic Games begin in July.

The issue of air pollution is becoming a huge embarrassment to the Games’ organisers and the government who have promised the “greenest Games”.

 

Words & images by Asta Guo

 

 

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