Revealed: Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill breach EU limits on nitrogen dioxide, according to new report

Regent's Park. Picture: Tom Page/Creative Commons

Regent's Park. Picture: Tom Page/Creative Commons - Credit: Archant

Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill both have higher levels of nitrogen dioxide than the European Union’s safe limit, a new study has revealed.

Traffic and cyclists coming out of Regent's Park outer circle. Picture: Adam Butler

Traffic and cyclists coming out of Regent's Park outer circle. Picture: Adam Butler - Credit: Archant

The report by Imperial College London said Regent's Park had 42.20 µg/m3 per year with Primrose Hill slightly lower at 40.8. Other areas breaching the limit include Swiss Cottage Open Space, Hampstead Green and Talacre Sports Centre. World Health Organisation advice says that the top rate should be 40.

Even Hampstead Heath, the 790-acre green lungs of London is only just under the limit with 36.4.

This is according to the latest data available, from 2016. New figures are set to be released before the end of November which may show a reduction in levels.

Nitrogen dioxide is mostly given out by vehicles, but also by wood-burning stoves and other domestic, commercial and industrial sources, according to the study.

Long-term exposure can damage the lungs and is linked to asthma, reduced lung growth and brain function.Other studies have said high levels of NO2 are as bad for children's lungs as maternal smoking during pregnancy.

Member of Regent's Park Cyclists Justin McKie said pollution in the park has given him asthma.

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He does training laps around the outer circle and said that it started to have an effect four or five years ago.

He said: "For many years I'd never had any issues with my breathing. There was a particular period of pollution early one summer linked to an African plume and I was finding it difficult to breathe and had quite serious asthma come on. I went to the hospital and had tests and it was diagnosed. Now every so often when the pollution is high I can't go out. I don't go and exercise outside."

Mr McKie said he tends to cycle in a morning before the park's gates are opened to traffic.

"It's much better because the outer circle provides a natural barrier. What is really noticeable is when I came back from Austria and cycled around the park, compared with a country with clean air, it's horrendous."

Author of the study, Dr Laure de Preux from Imperial College said: "We call London's green spaces the 'lungs of the city', but increasingly we are seeing that these lungs are being poisoned by air pollution and not enough is being done about it."