Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, is working with Transport for London to develop a system of alerts and signs designed to keep people informed about the state of the capital’s air.
The Mayor’s office said last week that proposals currently under consideration include roadside signs on the most polluted roads to alert Londoners when air quality is at dangerous levels, as well as promoting the use of the free airTEXT service and a more effective use of social media and traditional media.
Providing up-to-the-minute information via alerts and road signs can help people take appropriate action to protect their health.
The announcement follows new figures from King’s College London, showing that the Saharan Dust episode in April 2014 was one of 49 times air pollution in London climbed to moderate or higher levels that year. During that period, the London ambulance service reported a 14% rise in 999 calls for patients with respiratory issues and a higher than normal volume of calls from people with breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.
There were a further 48 episodes of particularly poor air quality in 2015, while this year has seen 22 incidents to date, the Mayor’s office said.
Current Government advice states that, during episodes of poor air quality, adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid or reduce strenuous physical activity. The advice also says that even healthy people need to consider taking action during high or very high periods of air pollution.
“These figures show that on numerous occasions, Londoners could have been given better, higher profile warnings and taken action to limit their exposure during episodes of extremely high pollution,” Khan said.
“There are of course times when air quality incidents are not man-made such as the Saharan Dust incident and could not have been prevented with measures such as cleaner busses and a wider Ultra Low Emission Zone. However, I will do everything humanly possible to put the well-being of Londoners first and will be taking robust steps to clean up the capital’s filthy air and drive down the number of days when air quality is dangerously high.
“In the short term, I want to ensure Londoners are given clear information and advice during these episodes, when they can take practical measures to protect their health.”