This week brought new research showing air pollution kills many more people than smoking, car crashes and HIV and is now the greatest external threat to human health on earth, with the average person losing over two years of life to this often invisible killer.
We know that motor vehicle exhaust fumes are the major source of air pollution in cities with typically 95% of carbon monoxide originating from such vehicles. This pollution is most concentrated in low-income areas while ownership of motor vehicles is greater in higher income areas. Wealthier residents are in a very real sense poisoning their less affluent neighbours. What is often not appreciated is also how deadly non-exhaust pollution from vehicles is to our health. Every vehicle generates particulate pollution and these tiny particles are estimated to be 1000 times more deadly than exhaust fumes. Whether a vehicle is petrol, diesel or electric, these deadly particles penetrate deep into our lungs. Electric vehicles being heavier generate even more of these deadly byproducts of tyre and brake wear. We are led to believe that a switch to electric vehicles will solve air pollution, yet this most deadly form of pollution will remain unchecked and is likely to instead increase.
It is only by disincentivising motor vehicle use, via measures such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods aka People Friendly Streets, that we can create healthy neighbourhoods where the wellbeing of all is protected.
Check out #lowtrafficislington for your local Islington group.