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Air Quality Experiment

Waterloo residents and King’s College London have collaborated on an experiment to test pollution levels on different streets in Waterloo.


They found that parallel back streets just 20m from Waterloo Station had 50% lower pollution levels, adding weight to the suggestion that pedestrians should seek out walking routes away from heavily trafficked streets.

Joint resident and business group South Bank & Waterloo Neighbours has been working with King’s College to gather evidence which will put pressure on Lambeth Council to invest in infrastructure to encourage walking through less polluted back streets such as Cornwall Road and Hatfields.

Residents also want air quality monitors in Waterloo, which suffers from levels of pollution which regularly exceed safe limits. Further evidence came to light in a recent Policy Exchange report which found:

  • 328,000 school children and 3.8million workers in London are exposed to unhealthy levels of Nitrogen Dioxide which is linked to asthma and respiratory infections.
  • 979 out of a total of 3,161 schools in London are over the limit for NO2. The data includes primary and secondary schools, including independent schools.
  • Children attending schools in Inner London boroughs are particularly at risk to harmful levels of NO2 pollution

The evidence gathered in Waterloo provides a silver lining to the clouds of diesel however. Where many who live and work in central London assume they are unable to reduce their exposure, minor changes in their walking routes could have a real impact. The South Bank and Waterloo Neighbourhood Plan will call for back streets to be designed for this purpose, with more trees, places to rest and a building designed to absorb ambient noise.

Andrew Grieve, of the King’s College Air Quality Monitoring Unit said, ‘After the VW emissions scandal, the interest of Londoners in how air pollution affects them reached new levels of intensity. Citizen-run experiments like this demonstrate not only that people want to find out for themselves what’s going on, but also that inner London resident communities can change their behaviour to reduce their exposure.’

Bishop’s Ward Councillor Kevin Craig said ‘I am very proud of these local residents who took the initiative to test their own air, and I will do all I can to ensure that Lambeth takes notice of the clear messages that are coming out of Waterloo that local residents will not rest until they see air pollution brought under safe limits.’

Data measured: difference in exposure to pollution on parallel routes

Route: Old Vic to Stamford St
Cornwall Road roughly 50% lower than Waterloo Road

Via Waterloo Road – average = 12.3 ug/m3 Via Cornwall Road – average = 6.2 ug/m3

Route: Park Plaza to Waterloo Bridge
The walk along the river from Park Plaza to Waterloo Bridge was about 60% lower than along York Road.

Via York Road – average = 6.3 ug/m3 Via the river path – average = 2.6 ug/m3

Route: Lambeth North to Park Plaza – average = 17.4 ug/m3

Route Old Vic to South Bank via Hatfields – average = 10.9 ug/m3

Lambeth Bridge Road was the highest and that Hatfields lies somewhere in the middle of all the routes we walked.

Click on the graphics below to find out more about the case for justifying a reduction in air pollution.  Graphics reproduced from the Policy Exchange report.

Health Case Image Legal Case Image Moral Case Image Fairness Case Image

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