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Tube air pollution ‘needs more research’ says transport activist

PUBLISHED: 12:46 14 January 2020

Justin McKie with his PM2.5 monitor in Belsize Park Tube station. Picture: Justin McKie

Justin McKie with his PM2.5 monitor in Belsize Park Tube station. Picture: Justin McKie

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A Belsize Park campaigner is carrying a gas mask and a pollution monitor when he takes the tube as part of a campaign to get transport bosses to act over dust levels on the underground.

Justin McKie with his PM2.5 monitor in Belsize Park Tube station. Picture: Justin McKieJustin McKie with his PM2.5 monitor in Belsize Park Tube station. Picture: Justin McKie

Justin McKie, who has previously campaigned for improved cycling infrastructure said he was worried by the readings his PM2.5 monitor - which measures particulate pollution - has produced during tube use.

Last month academics at King's College London (KCL) released a paper investigating levels of PM2.5 on the underground which showed levels 15 times higher than above ground and "some of the highest concentrations" Londoners encounter

Justin said: "You pretty much know what it's going to be like. but the Northern Line is an extreme example. The issue is the very fine dust which can get into the heart and lungs. There is a lack of long-term health studies. They don't actually know what it's all about."

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The KCL report's lead author, Dr David Green, called for more research into the particular health impact of Tube pollution to be done and said: "Our understanding of the health effects of air pollution is based on measurements taken by fixed measurement stations above ground. Clearly these don't represent what people are exposed to as they travel on the underground and these new measurements will help us improve these assessments."

Both the boss of the TSSA transport workers union and Transport for London's (TfL) safety chief said travelling by Tube was "as safe as it ever has been", but they were working to keep an eye on the issue.

The TSSA's Manuel Cortes said: "We welcome the fact that Underground management are working with the unions to ensure the appropriate research is carried out to make sure the system is safe for passengers and staff."

Lilli Matson from TfL welcomed the research but stressed TfL was "committed to maintaining the cleanest air possible" and that the particulates found in the underground are "not known" to be carcinogenic, unlike those found above ground.

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