Technology

People powered air pollution campaign exposes toxic postcodes

Breakthrough new website allows users to check local air pollution and the impact on house prices

This week marks the launch of a major new citizen funded initiative by the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) to tackle inaction on air pollution: addresspollution.org.

Addresspollution.org will, for the first time, uncover pollution levels by address using a system similar to the EPC energy ratings for homes. The free report generated with a click gives the annual average levels of air pollution at an address and the damage long term exposure can do to human health. It also makes it clear if the property exceeds the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual legal limit for clean air.

The rating system uses data from King’s College London, giving levels of nitrogen dioxide accurate to 20sqm.

A new report unveiled by COPI today shows that average house prices across the city could plummet. Chelsea house prices could be crunched by £256,416, in Tower Hamlets by £66,419 and in Islington by £146,359. The price plummet estimates follow findings that show a resounding 76% of Londoners believe that discounts should apply to properties available to rent or buy in areas that breach legal limits for air pollution and are likely to have a negative impact on occupants’ health.

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According to the World Health Organization, there is no healthy level of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)[3], but anything above 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) breaches the legal limit of NO2 – making it illegal. This would fall under a ‘Significant’ rating on addresspollution.org, and be shown to lead to an 11% increased risk of disease related mortality. London neighbourhoods that rank at this level include The Mall, Notting Hill as well as Regents Park home to famous names including the royal family, David Beckham and Daniel Craig.

Areas with air pollution above80µg/m3, which leads to a 33% increased risking disease related mortality, includewealthy neighbourhoods such as Chelsea, Westminster and newly gentrified areas like London Fields. COPI is targeting these areas with billboards that have messages like ‘Location, Location, Lung Disease’ and ‘These houses cost an arm, leg and lung’.

Humphrey Milles, founder of the Central Office for Public Interest, said: “Air pollution is killing people across the country, and London is worst hit - but people don’t believe it will affect them personally. The Air Quality Rating is a tool to change these perceptions and show just how real, and dangerous, air pollution is across the capital, including in some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods.

“I urge every Londoner to check the Air Quality Rating for their address, get informed and take action. Sign the petition and demand immediate action from your council and local MP.”

Every estate agent across London will be contacted this week and encouraged to adopt the new system.With the air quality and associated health costs for every address in London now readily available, a strong legal argument exists to say this information must be disclosed to prospective buyers.

While most (94%) of the Londoners surveyed claim to be aware[4]of the risks of exposure to air pollution, just 12% said that air pollution levels would be a high deciding factor[5]on a home purchase. But if they were informed that the level of toxicity breached the WHO’s legal limit for air pollution, which many addresses do, 58% said they would withdraw an offer completely and a further third (36%) would continue but demand a discount.

Mark Hayward, of the National Association of Estate Agents, commented:“Estate agents are legally obliged to declare material issues that could affect the price of a house to a buyer. The current legal argument about air pollution goes that it isn’t a material issue so does not need to be flagged to buyers. This argument just does not hold up when we know that disease related mortality increases in areas of significant air pollution. This needs to be addressed and I am urging estate agents to lead the change and begin sharing air pollution ratings with potential buyers, which they can now do using the new Air Pollution Rating tool. Air quality is now public information, and it will never not be again. This is going to be industry standard. It’s inevitable.”

Addresspollution.org makes it easy to demand action, with localised, specific action points for each council, and a national petition for the government to bring the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars forward from 2040 to 2030, in line with other countries around the world.

The campaign is from the Central Office of Public Interest, a non-profit creative industry alliance. Funds to get the campaign off the ground were raised from a successful Crowdfunder campaign, making this is a truly people powered campaign.

There are plans to roll it out nationwide, as toxic air isn’t just a London problem. Air pollution levels are too high in 37 out of 43 zones across the country[6]. This is eight years after the UK was first found to be in breach of legal limits.

Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health at Kings College London, added:“Many people don’t learn about air pollution levels and the health consequences until after they have suffered its effects. With an Air Quality rating for every house in the country using the latest data provided by King’s, this will enable the public to better understand the air quality at their own front door, and equip them with an understanding of how best to improve their local air quality.”

To get a free air quality report for your address and sign the petition, visit addresspollution.org.

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People powered air pollution campaign exposes toxic postcodes

People powered air pollution campaign exposes toxic postcodes

Breakthrough new website allows users to check local air pollution and the impact on house prices