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Air pollution in Havering down by three quarters due to coronavirus ‘lockdown’

PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:22 06 April 2020

Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, said coronavirus lockdown measures had demonstrated how much pollution was caused by London traffic.

Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, said coronavirus lockdown measures had demonstrated how much pollution was caused by London traffic.

Clean Air in London

Toxic pollution outside a Rainham community centre has dropped by more than three quarters since the coronavirus pandemic led the Government to impose a lockdown.

Ian Pirie, coordinator of Havering Friends of the Earth, welcomed news that pollution had fallen.Ian Pirie, coordinator of Havering Friends of the Earth, welcomed news that pollution had fallen.

Campaigners said they hoped some measures would continue after lockdown to help keep air pollution low.

The Romford Recorder worked with campaign group Clean Air in London to analyse data from two pollution monitoring stations, at Rainham’s Brenda Blakemore Community Centre and Romford’s former Oldchurch Hospital site.

Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, said: “This has been an experiment, forced upon us in tragic circumstances, which shows how much traffic pollution harms a city.”

The stations record concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Long-term exposure to NO2 reduces lung function, causes respiratory illness and increases hospital admissions and premature deaths.

We calculated the average pollution level for every Monday between January 6 and March 23, then compared it to Monday, March 30 – after a full week of lockdown.

The highest reading outside the Rainham site, at Chandlers Corner, was on January 20. The station measured 77.4 microgrammes (μg) of NO2 per cubic metre of air. The legal limit is 40μg.

The average reading at the site was 30.2μg - but after a week of lockdown, it fell to 7.3μg - a 75.8 per cent drop.

At the Romford site, in Waterloo Road, readings twice exceeded the 40μg limit, hitting 77.3μg on January 20 and 49.1μg on January 27.

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The average reading was 31.3μg. But by March 30, it had dropped to 10μg - a 68.1pc reduction.

The figures are from raw data, which will later be “bias corrected” to consider how weather conditions and other factors may have impacted the readings.

Ian Pirie, coordinator of Havering Friends of the Earth, said: “I’m hopeful that lessons will be learned. There are long-term changes that can be carried on, like less driving, more working from home, more Zoom meetings. We’re worried about thousands of deaths from coronavirus, but all the while, we have something like 40,000 early deaths a year in this country caused by air pollution.”

MP SAYS INCINERATOR COULD WORSEN PROBLEM

Rainham MP Jon Cruddas called on Government to block a new incinerator, which would contribute to Havering’s pollution levels.

A 2018 air quality report by Havering Council identified the Belvedere incinerator, in Bexley, as adding to the borough’s pollution levels.

Government is now considering whether a second incinerator should be greenlit. The Planning Inspectorate has handed the case to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A decision is due this month.

Mr Cruddas said: “There has to be a period of reflection when we are on the other side of covid-19, and climate change, air quality, pollution in general, needs to be part of that discussion. I have been campaigning against a second mass waste incinerator at Belvedere for two years now... I hope that in light of the impact coronavirus has had on those with existing respiratory conditions, this proposal will be knocked back.”


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