London has breached annual air pollution limits within a week for the third successive year.

Brixton Road, Lambeth took just five days of 2017 to register levels of pollutant nitrogen exceeding annual limits, making it the first air quality monitoring site to do so this year.

Putney High Street breached regulations by January 8 in 2016. In 2015 Oxford Street surpassed the annual limit in two days.

Under EU rules, sites are only allowed to exceed hourly limits on concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) 18 times a year. NO₂ is a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles that is linked to respiratory and heart problems.

Monitoring by the London Air project from King's College, London, showed that the rules had been breached by 9pm on Thursday.

Other London roads are expected to exceed the limits shortly.

The news comes on the day Sadiq Khan announced plans for ten more low emission bus zones aimed at tackling toxic air. Putney High Street and Lavender Hill are among those targeted by the policy, which will deploy new “green” buses on the capital’s most polluted routes.

Clean air campaigners have reacted angrily to the continued flouting of environmental regulations.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "It's shocking that pollution limits in London have already been breached for 2017. It shows the extent of the public health crisis we are facing.

"The mix of these toxic air pollution levels with freezing temperatures poses a serious risk to people with lung conditions and can affect all of our health."

Environmental law firm ClientEarth called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to deliver on his promises to tackle the problem and for national action from ministers, labelling the breach "another shameful reminder of the severity of London's air pollution".

Mr Khan’s low emission zones aim to cut harmful bus emissions across a total of twelve London routes by 84 per cent. The zones form part of the Mayor’s overall strategy for tackling air pollution in London, which is responsible for the premature deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners every year, according to 2015 research by King’s College, London.

Mr Khan said: “Tacking London’s filthy air is one of my main priorities and I am delighted to be delivering on that commitment by introducing these new low emission bus zones. Removing the oldest, dirtiest buses from our streets and delivering low emission bus zones will make a big contribution to tackling transport pollution.

"Safeguarding the health of Londoners is vital and I’m doing everything in my power both to transform London’s bus fleet and to target areas with the worst pollution.”

The Putney High Street zone will be delivered in March 2017 and will involve the exclusive use of hybrid or clean buses that meet the highest EU emissions standards. The Lavender Hill route will be delivered by 2020.

But ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews warned that Londoners could not wait three years and that immediate action was needed.

"While London has the worst air pollution, this is a national problem which requires a national solution,” he said.

"The Government's draft plans to tackle air pollution are due in April. They must include a national network of clean air zones, which stop the dirtiest diesel vehicles entering pollution hotspots.

"They also have to stop the perverse fiscal incentives which encourage people to use diesel vehicles and instead help them to buy cleaner ones."

The UK has been in breach of EU NO₂ limits for six years now and in 2015 was ordered by the Supreme Court to publish an action plan on how to tackle the major health crisis, following a legal challenge by ClientEarth.

The resulting plan was published in December that year, but London and other major cities will still be in breach of NO₂ limits for at least another four years, despite the new measures. Private passenger cars are exempt from the plan.

Attention on the harm caused to human health by NO₂ was triggered in September 2015 when it emerged that Volkswagen had cheated NO₂ emissions tests in the US, affecting 1.2 million diesel cars in the UK.

In 2016, Putney High Street, Wallington, Morden Civic Centre and Tolworth Broadway all exceeded their annual limits on NO₂.

The boroughs of Richmond has a moderate level of air pollution, while Sutton, Kingston and Croydon all have relatively low levels, according to the London Air Project.