Pollution kills more than alcoholism and obesity
More people are dying prematurely in Wandsworth from air pollution than either alcoholism and obesity, it emerged at a public meeting on Wednesday.
Around 40 people attended the meeting organised by the Wandsworth Environment Forum (WEF) to discuss air pollution in the borough and the shocking levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) recorded in Putney High Street.
A panel including Jonathan Callaway, deputy chairman of the Putney Society, Ed Dearnely, advisor for Clean Air in London (CAL) and deputy council leader Councillor Jonathan Cook discussed what needs to be done to tackle the issue.
Mr Callaway praised the progress made by the Putney Society to secure cleaner buses for Putney High Street, but said a lot more work needs to be done to reduce the levels of NO2.
He said the local primary care trust needs to be more vocal on the issue, while more can be done to encourage people to walk and cycle.
The campaigner also emphasised the need for more air monitoring sites in Wandsworth, as he believes the problem is likely to affect parts of the borough that are not currently monitored.
He said: "If this was road traffic accidents there would be a huge uproar. We are spending £4bn on cleaning up the River Thames, but I am not aware of any deaths - clearly the issue is not being addressed.
"People will have long term health problems, but we are only measuring NO2." Mr Dearnley presented a slide show to visitors, explaining there have been 4,300 pollution related premature deaths a year in London and 68 a year in Wandsworth.
He said there have been more premature deaths from air pollution than alcohol and obesity, with diesel buses being the major cause of pollution.
He said: "Pollution levels in London are dangerously high. It is predominately a traffic issue - replacing buses or retro fitting means better emissions."
Coun Cook spoke to visitors about the progress made by the council to tackle pollution, and said there could be more 20mph streets in the borough.
He said: "Anyone looking can see buses are a large part of that problem. It is a community team effort, everybody needs to do their bit."
TfL has promised there will be 131 cleaner buses in Putney High Street by March next year, including 10 hybrid vehicles.
Roehampton University has pledged to work alongside schools and educate youngsters about the effects of air pollution.