New analysis published by the Clean Cities Campaign today shows 17% of monitoring sites in central, inner and outer London recorded illegal levels of the harmful pollutant Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in 2022. The legal limits were scheduled to be met across the UK by 2010 at the latest.
Using the latest data available, global sustainability consultancy Ricardo found 13 out of 76 automatic air pollution monitors in London in 2022 recorded levels above legal limits [1,2]. Furthermore, none of the air quality monitors met the latest World Health Organization guidelines .
In 2022, illegal levels of NO2 (above 40μg/m3) were recorded at the following sites:
NO2 annual mean μg/m3 (2022)
City of London
Hanger Lane Gyratory
Hammersmith & Fulham
Hammersmith Town Centre
City of Westminster
Kingston Upon Thames
City of Westminster
Oxford Street east
City of London
Earls Court Road
A new interactive map produced by the Clean Cities Campaign also visualises Nitrogen Dioxide readings at more than 1,700 monitors across London for the first time, using data recorded by boroughs at diffusion tubes in 2021 and published on the London Datastore, as well as automatic monitoring stations in 2021 and 2022 . Notable gaps on the map can be seen in Bexley and Harrow due to the lack of data recorded by these boroughs.
Research has shown that NO2 pollution is on average 24-31% higher in areas where people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds are most likely to live. Furthermore, the most deprived Londoners are over six times more likely to live in areas with higher levels of NO2 than the least deprived .
Road transport, especially diesel vehicles, contribute significantly to levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in the capital , a harmful pollutant linked to lung cancer, cardiovascular harm, lower birth weight in newborns and increased risk of premature death. A reduction in NO2 of 10 µg/m3 could prevent over 600 deaths and save over 1,300 days spent in London’s hospitals due to respiratory conditions each year . The Clean Cities Campaign, in partnership with campaign group Mums for Lungs, is now calling for London to ditch diesel by 2030, to protect the next generation from its devastating health impacts.
Oliver Lord, Head of Strategy & UK, Clean Cities Campaign said, “Sadly the same siren is sounding again and I’m hoping this time that politicians will listen. Air pollution in London is breaching legal limits that were meant to be met 13 years ago, and when that eventually happens, they are still four times the World Health Organization’s guidelines to protect public health.
Diesel fumes are a major cause of toxic air and we need greater certainty that authorities at every level of government are committed to phase out diesel engines for good with the support to make this happen. A diesel-free London is where we need to eventually get to and anything less will fail to properly address the challenge we face.”
Rosa, a parent in Ealing from Mums for Lungs, said, “As a resident of Ealing, this new data is terrifying but not surprising. My son too, like 250 000 other children in London, suffers badly from asthma and has been hospitalised 26 times. Air pollution must be reduced as soon as possible, so kids can grow up to be healthy. Diesel vehicles are so polluting – we need them off our roads as fast as possible.”
Dr Jonathan Hudson, a cardiology registrar at Kingston University Hospital NHS Trust said, “Toxic air in London is costing lives and makes people sicker. Air pollution gets deep into the bloodstream and increases the risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. Diesel fumes, in particular, have been proven to be among the most dangerous for us to breathe. A diesel-free city would make us all healthier and live longer.”
The full dataset is available on request.
 The UK has a legal annual limit value for NO2 of 40μg/m3 https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/air-pollution/uk-eu-limits
 The current status for some of the datasets is “preliminary”, pending full QA/QC processes. Copies of the report available on request.
 The World Health Organization guidelines on levels of NO2 were revised in 2021 to 10μg/m3 taking into account the latest health evidence. https://www.who.int/news/item/22-09-2021-new-who-global-air-quality-guidelines-aim-to-save-millions-of-lives-from-air-pollution
 Diesel vehicles accounted for roughly half (49%) of all NOx emissions in London in 2019 and their contribution is often greater by the roadside where NO2 levels are stubbornly high. https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/london-atmospheric-emissions-inventory–laei–2019
 CBI Economics (2021) https://s40026.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/12651_CAZ_Clean-Air-Fund_London-1.pdf
 Last year the National Audit Office reported that progress to tackle illegal levels of NO2 has been slower than expected and public communications have not been effective https://www.nao.org.uk/press-release/tackling-local-breaches-of-air-quality/