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Air Pollution and Inequality in London


Air Quality Consultants has undertaken an analysis of the links between air pollution, deprivation and ethnicity in London, for the Greater London Authority. It confirms that areas where non-white people are more likely to live or which have more deprived communities are more likely to have worse air quality, although significant improvements have been made in recent years.

This snapshot analysis was based on air pollution figures for 2019, and assessed how annual average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) linked to levels of deprivation, as measured by the ONS Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), and ethnicity data from the 2011 census. It partially repeated similar work which looked at the likely effect of the London Environment Strategy, but which used 2013 as a baseline. The analysis shows that:

  • In 2019, in areas where the most deprived Londoners were likely to live the annual average NO2 was 3.8 µg/m3 higher than the least deprived areas, or 13% higher. For PM2.5, more deprived areas had annual average concentration 0.7 µg/m3, or 6% higher than the least deprived areas.
  • Recent improvements in air quality have also reduced the inequality in exposure between different socioeconomic groups. The difference between annual average NO2 in the most and least deprived areas reduced from 7.6 µg/m3 in 2013 to 3.8 µg/m3 in 2019, a reduction of 50%.
  • White ethnic groups are still more likely to be exposed to lower levels of air pollution and are the only group whose average exposure is lower than the overall London average.
  • In 2019, concentrations of NO2 were on average between 16 and 27% higher in areas where non-white people were most likely to live compared to areas where white people were most likely to live.
  • Again, recent improvements in air quality have also reduced the inequality in exposure between different ethnic groups. The highest concentrations of NO2 experienced in each group have reduced substantially since 2013. The largest reductions have been for non-white groups and so the differences between them are now much smaller.
  • The difference in mean concentrations of NO2 for areas where white and non-white groups were most likely to live reduces from 4.8-10.7 µg/m3 in 2013 to 4.0-6.9 µg/m3 in 2019, a reduction in the inequality in exposure of between 15 and 37%.

Further details here.

The full report can be found here.

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