Air pollution report worries Tower Hamlets’ residents

Tower Hamlets is one of the most polluted boroughs in London.

Tower Hamlets is one of the most polluted boroughs in London. (Picture credit: David Holt, Flickr)

Shocked Tower Hamlets parents were unaware of dangerous levels of air pollution outlined in a recent government report, saying they had little prior knowledge of the implications of illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2 ) for their children.

The “Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London” report was published last week, revealing the list of schools exposed to high NO2 levels in London. Three of the top five schools are located in Tower Hamlets; Canon Barnett Primary, English Martyrs Roman Catholic Primary School and Woolmore Primary School.

Mohammed Faruque, whose daughter attends one of the affected schools, said: “I had no idea about this. [The pollution levels] should be limited, it’s bad for our health.”

The report, which was commissioned by the Greater London Authority in 2013, was never published under ex-London mayor Boris Johnson. However, newly elected mayor Sadiq Khan has addressed the issue and promised to clean up London’s toxic air.

Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Bow and Poplar, told Eastlondonlines: “I think it’s shocking that this report was concealed but I commend Sadiq for bringing it to our attention.

“It is particularly concerning as schools are exposed to higher than EU limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution. The government and mayor should work to find the cause and seek to lessen its impact.”

Sixty-six Tower Hamlets schools are located in areas exceeding the limit of NO2 levels set by EU legislation. A total of 433 schools in London are in polluted areas, exposing schoolchildren to poor air quality.

Environmental law charity ClientEarth is prosecuting the government over illegal levels of air pollution. Andrea Lee, a Healthy Air campaigner for ClientEarth, said: “Air pollution has been shown to affect both the physical and mental development of children.

“It stunts lung growth in young children and aggravates respiratory problems like asthma. Studies are also showing that it can affect a child’s ability to learn. It is a huge public health issue. That is why we need urgent action from the government and the Mayor of London to reduce toxic air pollution in Tower Hamlets.”

A new study published in 2015 by King’s College London shows that in 2010, there was the equivalent of up to 5,900 deaths across London associated with long-term exposure to NO2.

A council spokesperson for Tower Hamlets said last week when the report was made public: “While today’s report shows that air quality levels in parts of London are low, we do everything we can to ensure that exposure to air pollution in the borough is mitigated through Tower Hamlets policy, particularly where children are involved.”

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