London's air quality - how bad is it?

The volume of road traffic in London makes it one of the most polluted places in the UK - an estimated 5.8 million journeys are made by car every day.

  • More than 2 million Londoners, including 400,000 children, live in areas which exceed current air pollution limits
  • Over 450 London state schools are in areas with dangerously high air pollution levels

How road transport harms our air

Road vehicles are the main cause of London's air pollution. They produce around half of all nitrogen oxides and emit tiny particles - like small bits of rubber and metal - into the air we breathe.

These harmful gases and particles can pass through the nose and throat, enter our bloodstream and harm our organs. This contributes to thousands of premature deaths and increases people's risk of heart and lung disease and asthma.

Air quality myth #1

Myth: Only central London is affected by air pollution

FACT: Pollution affects every borough in the city, not just central London

Air quality myth #2

Myth: Road vehicles aren't the main cause of London's air pollution

FACT: Driving polluting vehicles is the single biggest cause, contributing to around half of the air pollution in London

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality. Children growing up in heavily polluted streets have a smaller lung capacity than those in cleaner areas. This can't be reversed.

What you can do to help

As Londoners, we all have a role to play in improving our city's air quality. By 2041 we want 80% of trips in London to be made on foot, by cycling or by public transport.

This is a big task, but we can do our bit by making small changes to the way we travel.

Londoners make millions of trips every day that are short enough to walk and cycle, or have a public transport alternative. Short leisure journeys like popping to the shops or a trip to the gym, cinema or visiting friends could be swapped once a week, where possible, to help clean up London's air.

If you can leave the car at home, try these alternatives for a cleaner journey:

If you do need to drive, then consider these options:

  • Join a car club - Car clubs are a cost-effective and flexible alternative to owning a car
  • Go electric - Electric cars have zero exhaust emissions. Get more information about electric and plug-in hybrids on the Go Ultra Low website
  • Think about how you drive - Turn off your engine when you're parked or waiting in traffic for long periods, and drive as smoothly as possible

Try these tips with your next online shop:

  • When getting home deliveries or shopping online, consider getting all your packages sent in one shipment and picking a green option for your delivery slot
  • Consider collecting your parcel from a nearby store rather than having it delivered, and walk to collect your parcel rather than drive
Air quality myth #3

Myth: You don't need to switch off a car engine when stationary

FACT: Research shows that turning off the engine significantly reduces pollution levels in the surrounding area

Air quality myth #4

Myth: You can always see when air pollution is bad in London

FACT: Most airborne toxins are invisible to the naked eye

What we're doing for air quality

We're helping to clean London's air by, for example, running the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, cleaning up our bus fleet and taxis, and supporting small businesses and charities to switch to cleaner vehicles.

Vehicles

  • The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has already reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 29% since it was introduced in April 2019
  • We're introducing tougher Low Emission Zone standards for lorries, buses and coaches from 26 October 2020 within Greater London
  • All new double deck buses in London are hybrid, electric or hydrogen
  • 6,950 buses (75% of all our buses) - including all buses operating in the ULEZ - meet or exceed the new ULEZ emission standards. By October 2020, every bus in London - all 9,000 of our fleet - will meet or exceed the ULEZ standards
  • All new licensed taxis in London must be zero-emission capable - than 2,500 already operate in the Capital
  • We're committed to installing at least 300 rapid charge points for electric vehicles by 2020 - over 200 are already installed

Healthier streets