Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, and has been receiving increased media coverage in recent months. Research by King’s College London estimated that it contributed to around 9,500 deaths a year in London in 2010, and it has been proven to cause illnesses ranging from eczema and itchy eyes to cancer and lung disease.

What’s less well known is that air pollution is a particular concern for child health, as it can stunt lung growth and affect lung capacity. In fact, research conducted through a major study (the EXHALE project by King’s College London) found that the lung capacity of 8- and 9-year-olds in Tower Hamlets is 5% lower than the national average.

Idling

Leaving engines running while stationary is simply an unnecessary source of air pollution. And combating this is particularly important in locations where there are high numbers of idling vehicle engines, such as outside schools and hospitals and by bus stops. Many of our events are focused on schools and hospitals.

How we encourage drivers to switch off

We encourage drivers to switch their engines off by educating them about how air pollution affects health, so that they will give up their idling habit for good. When approached in a friendly way, and when presented with facts about how idling and air pollution affect health, most drivers switch off their engines and many pledge never to idle again.

It’s a simple way everyone can help instantly reduce vehicle emissions in London.

Does idling really have an impact on air pollution?

It would appear so. Air pollution levels were monitored during action days and were compared to days without idling action events. It showed that pollution peaks on idling action event days were lower overall than on days where there were no events.

We have also conducted air quality monitoring at some of our events. When stood next to an idling vehicle, pollution levels were about 10 times higher than the average air pollution levels during that event.

Air quality in London

If you’d like to know what the air quality is like in your borough right now, please use this widget: