Although London attracts millions of tourists every year, there is a hidden killer in this city: air pollution. Increased poor air quality has coincided with a rise in car ownership. The majority of drivers own diesel or petrol cars, which emit high levels of pollutants. Buses and lorries are also fuelled by diesel.

Owing to the high level of pollution, thousands of Londoners have respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis; many are absent from work because of this. Absenteeism has had an adverse affect on Britain’s Gross Domestic Product.

A report by King’s College, London, in 2018, has estimated that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die every year from air pollution in the United Kingdom.

Presently, there is a case at The High Court in London regarding a child who had thirty Asthma attacks; eventually she died. She lived in an area of London where pollution levels are excessively bad. Unfortunately, it is in the poorest areas of London, such as East London, where pollution is worst. Many children in these areas have respiratory problems; this has other detrimental effects, such as low educational attainment. If children are absent from school because of illness, this negatively impacts on their ability to achieve at school.

An ageing brain is one cause of the onset of dementia. It has recently been discovered that another cause of dementia is air pollution. When particles of pollution enter the brain, it instigates this malaise.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has tried to counteract London’s poor air quality by introducing various policies to deter people from driving heavily polluting vehicles in London. The Congestion Charge was introduced in central London from 7am-6pm Mondays-Fridays. Motorists who use heavy polluting vehicles will have to pay £11.50. The Low Emission Zone covers most of Greater London, and operates every day throughout the year.

On 8th April 2019, The Ultra Low Emission Zone was introduced. It covers the existing congestion charge zone of Central London, but is effective twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Motorists who drive vehicles that emit toxic levels of pollution in Central London will have to pay £12.50 each day. In addition, motorists who drive such vehicles in Central London between 7am and 6pm, Monday-Friday, will have to pay an £11.50 Congestion Charge too.

A fine of £160 will be imposed on those who refuse to pay. Lorry drivers have to pay £100 a day for driving into Central London, and there will be a £1000 fine for those failing to pay. Thousands of CCTV cameras have been erected to ensure that motorists do not violate the new laws. These cameras will read vehicle number plates and check if these modes of transport meet Ultra Low Emission Zone standards.

These policies will be punitive for pre-2015 diesel cars and pre-2006 petrol cars, because they are the most polluting vehicles. The 21,000 black taxis that are present in London are the dirtiest diesel vehicles yet, though due to mass protest, taxi drivers are exempt from paying the charge. Many police cars, ambulances and fire engines will have to be replaced because they emit high levels of pollutants.

Another policy to combat London’s poor air quality is the creation of more pedestrianized areas, such as Oxford Street, one of the most polluted streets in Europe. The increased number of pedestrian only areas has not come to fruition yet. The former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wasted millions of taxpayers’ money on the building of a pedestrian bridge in London. This project was not completed.

The British government wants to eradicate diesel and petrol cars from being manufactured. By the late 2020s, the government wants motorists to drive electric cars, though to date, an inadequate number of outlets have been built for such cars to be recharged.

The European Parliament had imposed exorbitant fines on Britain for the contravention of acceptable levels of pollution in London, but Britain has ignored European guidelines. Unless effective measures are instigated to drastically reduce London’s air pollution, thousands will continue to die each year.