Levels of pollution in New Cross and Deptford are up to six times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines, according to recent research by experts at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The data shows that pollution levels throughout Lewisham regularly exceeded the WHO guidelines for certain chemicals and particles in the air.
The study specifically measures the amount of PM2.5 in the air, which are tiny particles that can travel deep into the respiratory tract and worsen conditions including asthma and heart disease.
The recommended amount of PM2.5 is 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air, however highs of 150 were recorded by citizens from October 2016 to September 2017, who used the latest ‘dustbox’ monitors to collect air samples.
Goldsmiths Professor Jennifer Gabrys, who led the Citizen Sense research team, spoke to East London Lines about possible causes: “Firstly, major traffic intersections really showed up well above the WHO guideline, but we also found the River Thames to be another possible emission source.
“We had several people monitoring 200 metres from the river who recorded PM2.5 of over 100 µg/m3.”
This study is not the first of its kind to display excessive levels of pollution within the borough. In 2014, New Cross Road was named one of the “50 Most Polluted Roads in London” according to an ITV report.
ELL reported on the effects of pollution on young children in Lewisham earlier in the year.
However, according to Lewisham Council – where residents can check levels of air pollution within the area – the borough is categorised as having “low levels”. This means that only 0-35 micrograms per cubic metre of air were being recorded. The council were approached for comment but failed to respond.
Professor Gabrys added: “The council in Lewisham is only monitoring PM2.5 at a few locations. Sometimes monitoring will be done and annual averages will be given and you won’t necessarily see the same elevated periods of activity if you look at the data on a 24-hour or hourly basis.
“What we’re seeing across the whole of London is that you are getting annual averages that are twice the WHO guideline.”
As well as identifying sources of pollution, Professor Gabrys’ research also revealed possible solutions to the issue: “Some of the lowest levels recorded were from monitors used in sheltered gardens or pedestrian streets. In New Cross Gate, the lowest levels were recorded in the community garden.
“We think more can be done in terms of urban design and how through redesign the city can be made less car dependent and enabling pollution prevention and mitigation.”