nitrogen dioxide

Go outside and take a long, deep breath. Do your lungs feel suitably refreshed? If you’re in any one of a growing number of cities, the answer to that question may well be ‘no’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering 98% of large cities (those with more than 100,000 inhabitants) in low- and middle-income countries do not meet minimum air quality guidelines. The situation is better in high-income countries, but still, less than half of cities are up to standard.

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Traders today said urgent action was needed to slash traffic levels after a report revealed Oxford Street has the highest levels of a toxic pollutant in the world.

The mayor is facing demands to reduce the build-up of the “wall of buses” after a monitor installed by scientists showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide - linked with asthma and heart attacks.

Levels peaked at 463 micrograms per cubic metre, while average day-and-night levels since the beginning of the year have been 135 - more than three times the EU’s safety limit.