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Hold your breath! The air on Oxford Street is toxic

Posted at 5:00 pm, July 7, 2014 in News, Outdoor London

©Andrew Nash
[Photo: Andrew Nash]

The recent sunshine and 26 degree heat has made us all outdoorsy types. We’ve been bathing in the local lido, supping in beer gardens and picnicking in parks, but a word of warning to those popping out for some ‘fresh air’: steer clear of Oxford Street.

Not that it’d be your first choice for a stroll in the sun anyway, but Oxford street has just been labeled the worst place in the world for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant that’s toxic when inhaled.

It’s pretty nasty stuff that can cause chest pain, coughing and eye, nose or throat irritation. There are some scary facts about it causing conditions such as respiratory disease and inflammation of the lungs.

NO2 levels on Oxford Street are more than three times the EU’s safety limit and reportedly come from the constant stream of traffic using the road. A group of emissions scientists collected the findings, which show that London’s levels are higher than other big cities like New York, Hong Kong and Rio.

In an attempt to reduce these levels, the number of buses on Oxford Street has been cut by a fifth and some of the buses have been fitted with hybrid engines (so powered by electricity and diesel). Boris knows more needs to be done so by 2020 there will be an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London. But for now, those of us living or working near Oxford Street may want to invest in a face mask.

Wondering how polluted your road is? Plot your postcode in this London pollution map.

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