Is Air Pollution a Problem in Bromley?


Tory Councillor Suggests Air Pollution Is Not A Problem in Bromley: Here’s Why He’s Wrong

On the very same day that the Government told Londoners to avoid strenuous physical activity due to “very high” levels of pollution, one of Bromley Town’s Conservative Councillors tweeted, “Great to see the London Borough of Bromley as a sea of green - cleanest air in London, you know!”, alongside a screenshot from Breathe London showing predominantly green numbers for Bromley. So who’s right – the Government or Bromley Town’s Conservative Councillor? From the Councillor’s Tweet it is implied, and you would think, Bromley has great air quality – this article sets out why that is misleading.

Firstly, two facts about the data the Councillor is quoting:

  1. Bromley has one air monitor providing live data for the whole borough, yes – that’s a single live monitor for the largest Borough in London (area of 150km2). You can see why that might be a problem - one air monitor is not sufficient to provide good coverage of the whole of Bromley borough and where you put it impacts the data significantly. 
  2. Levels of air pollution vary significantly day-to-day depending on traffic/congestion as well as prevailing weather conditions (strong winds disperse pollution more quickly, whereas static high pressure and humidity have the opposite effect). So on any given day a monitor can tell a different story – a snapshot on a particular day is not representative, you need averages and a network of monitors to get an accurate picture of levels of air pollution.

So that puts the data in context. So why do Bromley Liberal Democrats think there is an air pollution problem in Bromley? Our key points are:

  • According to research from Imperial College, Bromley suffers the highest number deaths attributable to air pollution in the whole of London, mainly due to the higher proportion of elderly people who are more vulnerable to air pollution. Whilst the outer Boroughs of London have lower levels of air pollution compared to inner Boroughs, it is still a significant problem - causing many respiratory problems for residents and contributing to the early deaths of many people. Having a population with more vulnerable people within it also means even levels of air pollution lower than central London Boroughs can still be very harmful to many of Bromley’s residents.
  • One of the most harmful pollutants is small particulate matter, 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5), which can pass through the lungs into the bloodstream and affect other organs. The WHO have classified these particles as cancer-causing and states that the annual average exposure should be no more than 5μg per cubic metre. On the same day our Bromley Councillor tweeted (14 Jan) Bromley Lib Dem’s network of 16 monitors across Bromley Borough (freshairbromley.org.uk) showed that the PM2.5 24hr average was more than double the WHO guidelines. So you can see why we are sceptical about the council’s grand claims about air quality – if you only have one monitor, drawing conclusions is fraught with problems and, frankly, misleading.

So – what would the Lib Dems do differently? Well, we would:

  • Vastly increase the number of air monitors to monitor air pollution across the Borough effectively - so we have good data, know where problems are and can make tailored solutions to reduce pollution in the worst affected areas.
  • Encourage cycling and walking across our Borough to reduce car use. We need to make it easier and safer for residents to make the choice to cycle or walk instead of taking the car. If we increase active travel rates it will be better for our health, and better for the environment. The current council is not doing anywhere near enough.
  • Reduce emissions by improving public transport provision and improving electric vehicle charging infrastructure (Bromley is falling behind on this with only half as many EV charging points per 100,000 people compared to all other outer London boroughs).

So, does Bromley have an air pollution problem? In short, yes it does – like much of the rest of London. That’s why it is irresponsible to be suggesting that air quality is not a problem in Bromley. If you want to change the council’s dismissive attitude on air pollution the best way to do that is to elect local champions who really care about air pollution in Bromley’s local elections on 5 May 2022.

Make sure you register to vote in plenty of time and then get out and vote on 5 May! Together we can change this.

And if you're interested in the subject of air quality in Bromley why not attend our public meeting on Friday 4th February (by zoom or in person at Bromley Parish Church Hall) - see the details here


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