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Assembly Member for City & East London, John Biggs on poor air quality

PUBLISHED: 13:18 06 March 2013 | UPDATED: 08:09 07 March 2013

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John Biggs AM: Labour City & East

Poor air quality causes over 4,000 Londoners to die prematurely each year. This is mostly due to road vehicle exhaust fumes. And it tends to be those who cannot choose to live in the ‘nicer’ places who suffer most. Each time I visit the South Poplar and Canning Town areas – I was there the other day, discussing road safety – I think about how, although the houses are getting nicer, the air quality near the Blackwall Tunnel is one of those ‘hot spots’ where the elderly, the very young, and those with lung conditions, will suffer as a result. Something needs to be done.

Meanwhile, the horse meat scandal continues and, in the East End, we have been as let down as much as anyone else. In addition to wondering how we afford the weekly bills, now we must suddenly start worrying about what we are eating. It is on the news every day, as a scandal. It has been a massive news story. And the politicians and newspapers have been looking for the villain who is to blame.

But stop a minute. You can guarantee that if we had heard that 4,000 Londoners died each year because of horse meat it would be a national scandal. But nobody has died. For many Eastenders, there is no choice where they live, and yet poor air quality kills and injures them. Why is that not a scandal too?

That is a pretty powerful question. The current Mayor of London has dragged his feet on this important matter, and reversed some of his predecessor’s policies. He was also caught ‘gluing’ pollutants to the road near measuring stations to reduce the readings! He seemed to be saying that the wallets of car drivers were more important than the lungs of vulnerable Londoners.

I my view, that is a bigger scandal than the horse one. But maybe, finally, some help is at hand. Local Councils are being given new duties about public health. If I was at the Town Hall I would make sure I started banging the drum over the poisoned air local people still have to breathe.

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