It was recently revealed that spending an hour on the Tube is as toxic as spending the whole day next to a busy road. Which, obviously, is spectacularly bad news.
This report, published by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, is the first to examine levels of pollution on the London Underground since 1998. It was found that the air quality in the Northern line was five times over the level deemed healthy by the Air Quality Index, making it the most polluted section of the underground.
But that’s just half the story: there is literally not a single area of London where the levels of air pollution meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) health standards. In fact, nearly 95% of the capital – stretching from Oxford Street to largely grey, gloomy bits that kind of look like suburban England but still have double-decker red buses – exceed these levels by 50% or more.
Health experts say that children exposed to these levels of air pollution are at higher risk of developing respiratory problems, including asthma and reduced lung function. The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old asthma sufferer, served as a reminder that this is a public health emergency. She is the first person in Britain to have her death legally linked to air pollution.
But in reality, the microscopic evils of pollution are responsible for over 9,400 deaths per year (and 7 million people globally). Even the unborn are more likely to die, according to a recent scientific study revealing that air pollution is just as bad as smoking in raising the risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
So, how does the risk of dying from air pollution compare to other death causes, like knife crime, road accidents or homicide?
You are literally more likely to die by breathing on the tube or on the streets of London than anything else. Uber’s extra 15p and the ULEZ (ultra-low emission zone) aren’t such a bad idea after all.
Click here to find out about what you can do to help clean our toxic air.