Masking the the Capital's Air Pollution

By Herrmann, Joshi | The Evening Standard (London, England), July 13, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Masking the the Capital's Air Pollution


Herrmann, Joshi, The Evening Standard (London, England)


EARLIER this month, a new film by photography artist Faisal Abdu'Allah reminded London of its problems with air pollution.

The film, Double Pendulum, showed how pollution was shortening the lives of those living near the Olympic Park.

London's dirty air results in 4,200 premature deaths every year, at a cost of Pounds 2billion. The dangers of air pollution include the respiratory irritation caused by the nitrogen oxides produced by vehicles and heart and lung conditions from long-term exposure to particulate matter (especially PM2.5).

It's something cyclists, who often sit in chugging traffic for more than an hour each day, are acutely aware of. An increasingly popular solution is the cycle mask, which manufacturers claim filters the air before it reaches the cyclist's mouth and nose.

James Grugeon, CEO of Environmental Protection UK, told the Standard that consumers should be careful about relying on masks. "The quality varies. Some will filter out particulate matter, one of the worst forms of pollution. But you've also got nitrous oxides, and I'm not sure how many masks cope with those."

According to Grugeon: "The best way to protect yourself against pollution is to avoid hotspots such as Marylebone Road, Euston Road and Upper Thames Street rather than adopt a sticking plaster solution like masks."

Mike Cavenett from the London Cycling Campaign highlights the problem of ill-fitting masks. "We understand that to get the best out of them they have to be custom-fitted. We're talking about tiny airborne particles. If you have a beard, the particles can get through the gaps in your facial hair, for example. For us, the solution to the pollution problem isn't clothing that protects against it but reducing pollution.

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