How World’s First Ultra Low Emission Zone Helps London

Ultra Low Emission Zone in London
Ultra Low Emission Zone in London

The London Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and other bold policies to tackle air pollution will save the NHS (National Health Service) around £5 billion and more than one million hospital admissions over the next 30 years.

The figures are from a new report looking at the long-term health impacts of exposure to toxic pollution (NO2 and PM2.5) in London. The world’s first ULEZ was introduced last year in central London and is the centrepiece of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s bold action to tackle London’s toxic air health crisis.

“Air pollution is a national health crisis that is contributing to thousands of premature deaths in London alone. Toxic air causes long-lasting harm and could devastate lives for generations,” said Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. “This new data shows that the action we’re taking is already making a difference and saving lives.”

The ULEZ in particular will have a transformative impact in the coming years, with one million fewer air pollution related hospital admissions and billions of pounds saved to the NHS. Toxic pollutants lead to thousands of premature deaths every year, increase the risk of asthma, dementia, and cancer and stunt the development of children’s lungs.

The ULEZ has already led to immediate health benefits with fewer polluting cars being driven and a roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) reducing by 36 per cent in the zone. The new report reveals that by 2050 the impact of the Mayor’s air quality policies, including the ULEZ, Low Emission Bus Zones and no longer licensing new diesel taxis, are predicted to result in:

  • almost 300,000 Londoners saved from diseases attributable to air pollution, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer and dementia. This is a reduction of around one in every four air pollution related diseases
  • a cost saving to London’s NHS and social care system of around £5 billion
  • one million fewer new air pollution related hospital admissions in London.

In addition to the policy areas controlled by the Mayor, if no wider action is taken by the Government to reduce air pollution, around 550,000 Londoners would develop diseases attributable to air pollution over the next 30 years. The cumulative cost to the NHS and social care system in London is estimated to be £10.4 billion.

Sadiq visited Columbia Market Nursery School, one of 20 nurseries in the most polluted areas of London that received an Air Quality Audit and grant from the Mayor’s programme.

The nursery is also one of six selected to trial an indoor air filtration system as part of the Mayor’s scheme and will benefit from when the ULEZ area is expanded up to the North and South circular roads in 2021.

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Rakesh Raman