Over the summer together with a coalition of community groups, Green Westway conducted a citizen-lead air pollution monitoring project around Latimer Road Station funded by the social enterprise Mapping for Change based out of University College London (UCL).
Between 2 July and 30 July 2014, several diffusion tubes were placed in various sites around a study area that stretched from Oxford Gardens in the north to Treadgold Street in the south, the West Cross Route in the west and St Marks Close in the east. At the end of the study period, the diffusion tubes were sent to UCL laboratories for analysis of the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air.
Concentrating on residential and leisure spaces, the results returned saw five locations in breach of EU air quality standards. These were:
- Maxilla Park – (43.22 µg/m3 [micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre])
- The junction of Cambridge Gardens and St Marks Road – (51.23 µg/m3)
- The entrance to Bramleys Big Adventure off Bramley Road – (41.14 µg/m3)
- The horse riding track beneath the Westway – (41.60 µg/m3)
- The astroturf football pitches by the West Cross Route ramp onto the flyover – (52.47 µg/m3)
In 2008, the EU’s air pollution directive established limits on the the levels of air-borne nitrogen dioxide contaminants at 40.00 µg/m3. According to the US Environment Protection Agency the effects of high nitrogen dioxide in the air can be problematic for health as it can “irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. The effects of short-term exposure are still unclear, but continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.”
With high numbers of children using at least four of the spaces identified as in breach of EU safety standards for NO2 concentrations, this is cause for some alarm. Private diesel vehicles and load bearing diesel lorries are disproportionately responsible for these emissions, and as these sites are clustered around one of London’s most important thoroughfares, the Westway, it is unsurprising that these locations experience dangerous levels of NO2. The problem of local NO2 emissions is compounded by findings from Public Health England earlier this year that suggest Kensington and Chelsea has the highest pollution levels of any local authority in the UK. The Guardian reported that more than “1 in 12 of all deaths in the borough attributable to tiny particles of soot largely emitted by diesel engines.”
It is reasonable to assume that the projected developments in the White City Opportunity Area, adjacent to the study area, may increase the burden of local emissions. Lorries being used to transport building materials could further pressurise the already strained air quality (over a quarter of the remaining diffusion tubes picked up readings of 37 µg/m3 or higher) and the large-scale residential complexes may also lead to a local increase in private vehicles, which could in turn worsen health outcomes.
In this context, Green Westway now wants to work with all local stakeholders to explore a series of measures to reduce the exposure of these spaces to pollution. Through this we want to campaign for:
- A reduction of vehicle speed on the West Cross Route and Westway, as well as the ramps that connect them
- To reduce emissions, lower speeds have been found to do this – http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/transport/speed-limits
- A new Overground Westway Station on the West London line beneath the elevated roundabout
- To incentivise public transport use, especially in response to the concentration of new residents in the White City Opportunity Area, a shift to public transport can reduce pollution – https://www.itdp.org/itdp-releases-new-study-on-climate-change-ahead-of-un-climate-summit/
- Further exploration of the feasibility of green walls to separate exposed spaces from busy roads
- To mitigate air pollution, under certain conditions these have been shown to reduce NO2 and particulate matter (PM) concentrations by 30% – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22663154
- Further air quality monitoring to verify the results of this study
- To understand PM concentrations in the area that were not covered in the study, and keep the public informed on pollution issues. Apart from local people’s right to know how polluted their area is, a localisation of people’s understandings within their contexts can be effective in changing behaviours – http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/ESP178/Understanding_of_air_pollution.pdf
Green Westway hopes to contribute to the coordination of activities between local people, the Council, Imperial College, Westway Development Trust, and Transport for London, to ensure the local environment can be improved expediently. With a new Mayor’s Air Quality Fund opening in the next financial year, we hope to rally all stakeholders to ensure that local people can see the benefit of a fund designed to tackle the specific issues raised in this study.
For a full breakdown of the results, download the spreadsheet here.