Article & Pictures by: Marie Segger

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Are you feeling one step closer to death, yet? Well, maybe not. But you definitely are, as “London’s killer toxic air” is slowly poisoning you according to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.
This week London’s mayor has called on the government to step forward and do something about the high levels of air pollution in the capital. Previously the courts ruled that the government had broken its own law by failing to address the problem.
Khan calls the situation a “toxic health emergency” in his post on Facebook and asks the residents of the city to help him with ideas on how to reduce air pollution on Twitter. And air pollution can reach alarming levels in London as the real-time air quality index shows.
You can not only see the current level of air pollution but also see an air pollution forecast for the next couple of days. The public is concerned as the pure existence of Twitter accounts like LondonAir and websites like Howpollutedismyroad.org.uk prove.
On a grander scale, however, London’s problems are put into perspective. The cities with the highest levels of air pollution (measured in fine particular matter PM 2.5) are Zabol in Iran, Gwalior in India and Allahabad in India.

Data source: WHO

London clocks in at number 1389 out of 2972 cities that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has compared measurements for. It ranks just between Salford and Southampton.
The British capital has an annual mean amount of fine particular matter (PM 2.5) of 15. Berlin is doing slightly worse with an annual mean of 16, Paris has an annual mean of 18 and Bucharest scores 23.
Looking at European capitals that came in lower than London one city sticks out. Stockholm has one of the lowest scores worldwide with 4ug/m3.

Annual mean amount of fine part particular matter PM 2.5 per city

Data source: WHO

But Stockholm has only 789,024 residents, which is less than a tenth of London’s population. In general, smaller cities fare better than bigger cities regarding air pollution.
Especially for India and China with their super-size cities this is problematic. All of the countries fighting with high pollution levels are typically located in the Middle East, Asia or Africa.
As the map demonstrates, London doesn’t even fare bad in comparison to other European countries and cities.

Median fine particulate matter per country

Data source: WHO

The incredibly fine particles (PM 2.5) can only be seen under microscopes and are so small that they can get from the lungs into the blood supply. That’s why the particles are seen as even more deadly than their bigger counterparts known as PM 10s.
PM 10s are small enough to be breathed in as well. Typically the particles are dust, soot or burned carbon.
Still, even though London’s problem shrinks in comparison to cities like Delhi, Shanghai and Zabor air pollution remains a serious problem in the UK. But Sadiq Khan is out tackle this issue.
So, breathe in. Breathe out.