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Oxford Street is the most polluted street in the world

The air in Oxford Street is world record-smashingly bad — and it looks like cars, buses and taxis are to blame. 

London’s Oxford Street has got the worst air in the world. Figures recorded by an air quality monitoring station have showed that the UK capital’s busy shopping street has the highest concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the globe.

Oxford Street emissions are causing NO2 concentrations to hit record levels
Oxford Street emissions are causing NO2 concentrations to hit record levels

The EU limit for the toxic gas is 40 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3). Worryingly, researchers have recorded levels reaching 135 mcg/m3 three times this year. The figures recorded are averages which take into account lowered nighttime pollution, suggesting daytime levels are significantly higher. In March, a record level of 463 mcg/m3 was recorded.

The volume of traffic, specifically buses and taxis, has been cited as the main cause for the high concentrations of NO2. Oxford Street is one of the busiest thoroughfares for public transport with Transport for London running over 18 bus services along the route between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road.

Understandably those employed by Oxford Street businesses are calling on London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action to reduce the “wall of buses.” The Mayor supports the use of zero-emissions vehicles, having invested significant amounts of the capital’s revenue into alternative fuels.

High levels of NO2 can aggravate and be the catalyst for many respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and is linked to heart attacks. David Carslaw, of King’s College London, told the Sunday Times, “To my knowledge, this [level] is the highest in the world in terms of both hourly and annual mean. NO2 concentrations [in Oxford Street] are as high as they ever have been in the long history of air pollution.”


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