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Black and ethnic minorities more likely to live in areas of London with toxic air, study says

People from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are more likely to live in areas of London with toxic air, according to a study.

The research, conducted by City Hall, found that deprived areas or areas with higher proportions of people from non-white backgrounds also have higher levels of air pollution.

However, the study also found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide has decreased by 20 per cent on average across London since 2016, while exposure to particulate matter such as dust, soot or smoke has decreased by 15 per cent on average.

It comes as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made cleaning up London’s air one of his key policies, with the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to be expanded later this month.

Once the expansion is complete, around 3.8 million Londoners will live within the ULEZ.

City Hall estimates that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries within the expanded ULEZ will currently fail to comply.

Typically petrol cars bought before 2006, and most diesel cars bought before September 2015, fall below emission standards.

Drivers of non-compliant vehicles under 3.5 tonnes in weight are charged £12.50 per day within the zone, while drivers of non-compliant vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, including coaches and lorries, must pay £100 per day.

In line with that initiative, City Hall has launched its new Breathe London community programme.

The initiative invites community organisations from deprived areas to apply for one of 60 free air quality sensors to be installed in whatever areas they choose.

The sensors will then supply “real time, hyper-local data” on air quality.

Londoners are also able to purchase the sensors for a fee.

The Breathe London Network will be managed by the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London and funded by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Mr Khan said: “We know toxic air pollution in London stunts the growth of children’s lungs and worsens chronic illnesses, such as asthma.

“Now our new research confirms that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be Londoners living in deprived areas and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

“The bold action we have taken since I become mayor has reduced this gap by up to 50 per cent, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why I’m more determined than ever to do everything we can in London to consign air pollution to the history books.”

The mayor said the expansion of the “world-first” ULEZ will “help us deliver a cleaner, greener and fairer city”.

A YouGov poll in April 2019 found that 72% of Londoners supported the introduction of the ULEZ.

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