The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum measured atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2015 and found dangerous levels of the poison throughout its area.
Forum volunteers placed NO2 diffusion tubes — the same type that is used by Camden — in 31 locations, ranging from Hampstead High Street to the Viaduct Pond on Hampstead Heath. The tubes were left for four weeks and were then collected and sent for laboratory processing.
The Forum reported on the results of the tests at its 3rd Annual General meeting on 3 March 2016. Presentations were also given on the progress on drafting the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan and on various projects that the Forum is undertaking.
The tests found that NO2 levels at locations with heavy traffic, such as Spaniards Inn and the top of Arkwright Road, were approaching double the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. Even at Viaduct Pond on Hampstead Heath, away from any roads and surrounded by trees, the NO2 level was half the legal limit.
Stephen Taylor, Forum secretary, who is leading the project with the help of Gustavo Hinestrosa and numerous local volunteers, told the Forum’s annual general meeting on March 3: “You won’t find anywhere in central London where you could expect to find better air quality than at the Viaduct Pond.”
NO2 turns to nitric acid in the lungs. While the law limits how much we should breathe, the World Health Organisation states that there is no level that is safe. Ultrafine particulate matter (PM), a Group 1 carcinogen, is found in the air with NO2.
Public Health England attributes 7.7% of all deaths in Camden in 2010 to PM poisoning, and estimates that it shortens London lives by 10-11 months.
Roughly half of NO2 and 80% of PM is emitted by motor traffic.
In the Forum’s consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan that it is currently writing, local residents expressed strong views that local planning should help “to improve air quality and safety by minimising traffic congestion.”
“The air in leafy Hampstead is better than in central London,” said Janine Griffis, the Forum’s chair, “but even here our residents and our many schoolchildren breathe dangerous levels of poison. Local planning alone won’t be able to solve the problem, though it may be able to help.”
Griffis said: “Right in the middle of the Heath, NO2 levels are a full half of the legal maximum, and on our through roads they approach twice that. The volume of traffic in Hampstead is a clear concern.”
The Forum will join other groups reporting their local NO2 readings at a public meeting at St Stephens Rosslyn Hill on 26 April 2016. Meanwhile, it is planning a further test during the Easter holidays.
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