EURO-MP Jean Lambert has joined local campaigner Chris Smith and Clean Air in London founder and director Simon Birkett to visit some of Tower Hamlets’ air pollution hotspots.
In the last year alone 71 people have died prematurely as a result of poor air quality in Tower Hamlets alone: a higher proportion of preventable deaths than in neighbouring boroughs Hackney and City of London – and one of the highest levels in the UK.
In London as a whole, as many as 4,000 premature deaths are thought to have been caused by air pollution – more than as a result of either alcohol misuse or obesity.
Ms Lambert, Green MEP for London, said the number of deaths was a tragedy – and called for immediate action.
“Every one of these 71 victims was somebody’s father, mother, son or daughter, and is a personal tragedy for family and friends.
“We know that air pollution levels are higher in Tower Hamlets than in most of the rest of the country – and far in excess of levels permitted by EU safety rules.
“This silent killer is mainly caused by exhaust fumes from traffic – but rather than try to deal with the problem we know that London Mayor Boris Johnson has tried to cover up the problem – and that he has sought to water down EU safety legislation rather than comply with it.
“Tower Hamlets urgently needs an Air Quality Action Plan – we need to view air pollution as a public health issue and encourage motorists to use other modes of transport.
“The European Commission has been consulting on new air quality safety rules, and is due to present its proposals to MEPs next month. I hope the government has been unsuccessful in its attempts to weaken them, and will take immediate steps to confirm with any changed rules about what levels of pollution are acceptable and safe.”
Following discussions with a number of local residents during her walking tour of the borough, she added: “People are surprised to learn that just last month the World Health Organisation classified air pollution as a significant cause of lung cancer – and in this, the EU ‘Year of Air‘, we need Tower Hamlets to adopt a significant programme of monitoring, mitigation and education to bring the number of these tragic cases down.”