Air pollution

In 1952, London was hit by the Great Smog, a week-long pea-souper that brought the capital to a standstill and contributed to the deaths of at least 4,000 people.

According to the Manchester Guardian, the so-called ‘London particular’ had ‘caused an unusual amount of footpad crime and burglary.’ Cars were abandoned by the roadside, trains were cancelled and rugby matches postponed, while the BBC made several programme alterations when presenters couldn’t make it to the studios.

A link between particulate matter (PM) exposure and inflammatory disease has been shown by many studies, but few have explored how the chemical composition of PM influences inflammatory processes. This study investigated the connection between different components of PM and markers of inflammation in the blood, finding that long-term exposure to transition metals, emitted by traffic and industry, may cause chronic inflammation.

How safe is the air that we breathe? The VW diesel emissions scandal has highlighted the issue of air pollution.

The two pollutants which give most cause for concern are the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5), particles so small they can be ingested deep into the lungs.

Earlier this year the UK's highest court ruled the government must take action to cut NO2 pollution. The UK has been in breach of EU limits for nitrogen dioxide for several years.

Community groups recording air pollution in London found eight out of nine areas surveyed breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air.

The University College London (UCL) project found the highest level of NO2 in the areas was in Marylebone in central London.

Diesel vehicles are a key source of NO2, which is linked to a range of respiratory illnesses.

London's deputy mayor for environment and energy said NO2 was a "problem".

Atmospheric levels of a little known by-product from diesel engines are up 70 times higher than expected according to a study.

Researchers found that long-chain hydrocarbons are significantly under-reported in car manufacturers' data.

These hydrocarbons are a key component of two of the worst air pollutants, ozone and particulate matter.

The authors believe these "hidden" emissions are having a large impact on air quality in cities like London.

The British government sought to block new EU legislation that would force member states to carry out surprise checks on the emissions of cars, raising fresh questions over ministers’ attitude to air pollution and their conduct in the Volkswagen scandal.

A document obtained by the Observer reveals that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been advising British MEPs to vote against legislation that would oblige countries to carry out “routine and non-routine” inspections on vehicles’ “real-world” emissions.

In a bid to reduce CO2 emissions in the 90s, Europe backed a major switch from petrol to diesel cars but the result was a rise in deadly air pollution

Volkswagen’s rigging of emissions tests for diesel cars comes after nearly 20 years of the technology being incentivised in Europe in the knowledge that its adoption would reduce global warming emissions but lead to thousands of extra deaths from increased levels of toxic gases.

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