London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a “black alert” — the highest pollution warning level — as the Air Quality Index revealed particulate matter in the city was concentrated at 197 micrograms per cubic meter. To put that in perspective, a healthy AQI reading is 0-50; 197 places London at the higher end of the “unhealthy” category, which tops out at 200 before reaching “very unhealthy” levels.
Various environmental factors compound to pollute our air, most of them man-made, and the effects on human health are substantial.
In the short term, conditions like asthma and emphysema flare up, but long-term exposure can substantially increase the chances of developing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including strokes and lung cancer. It’s an issue that applies to the majority of the United Kingdom; one 2012 study by the World Health Organization attributed 16,335 deaths country-wide to bad air.
So how can you protect yourself from the effects of environmental pollution? Keep an eye on the London Air website for real-time air quality readings. If pollution is particularly bad in your area (currently the City, Westminster, Kensington and Camden are most at risk) stay indoors as much as possible. Download the City Air app for alerts, customized advice on reducing your personal contribution to emissions, and alternate travel routes to avoid exposure.