Air pollution in Tower Hamlets is too high, figures show

AIR quality in Tower Hamlets failed to meet the targets set by a London health watchdog last year.

In two out of three monitoring stations in the borough, the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air was well above the upper limit set by the London Air Quality Network.

Long-term exposure to the gas increases the chances of respiratory illnesses, especially in children.

Over the course of 2010, an average of 72 units of the gas was recorded at the Blackwall station – above the target of 40 units or below.

At the Mile End Road station, the yearly average was 65 units and at Poplar, the average was only just below the recommended upper level at 39 units.

Cars, trucks and electric power plants are the main sources of nitrogen dioxide.

Levels of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone recorded in the borough were not deemed to be excessively high.

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London MEP Sarah Ludford met with the European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik to talk about air quality in the city earlier this week.

The Lib Dem, who helped found the Clean Air in London campaign, said: “Small children are being affected for life. This really is an emergency.

“Because London’s poor air quality breaches EU rules, the UK government could soon find itself in court and paying a big fine if it does not take action.”

In 2000, Tower Hamlets Council set up a body to regularly monitor the levels of harmful pollution in the borough.

The results showed that vehicle emissions were the main culprit.

Central heating systems and construction sites also have an impact.

The Greater London Authority said it has laid out strategies to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels by 35 per cent by 2015.

A spokesperson for mayor Boris Johnson said: “40 per cent of nitrogen dioxide pollution is generated outside the capital and many of the sources in London are outside the Mayor’s control.

“That is why the government needs to provide funding for air quality improvements in London, as well as implementing national measures such as tax incentives for cleaner vehicles and vehicle scrappage schemes.”

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