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Helping to clean up Newham air: Anti-Idling

Idling your engine when stationary creates unnecessary source of air pollution which is a major environmental risk to health. Research carried out by Kings College London estimated that in London air pollution contributed to around 9,500 deaths in 2010. Both short and long-term exposure to pollutants has been proven to cause illnesses ranging from eczema and itchy eyes to asthma, cancer and lung disease.​​

About Air Quality

Air quality is a measure of how clean or how polluted the air is. Air is made up of good gases like oxygen that we need to breathe, bad gases like nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles like dust can affect our health.

What are the main air pollutants?

The two main pollutants in London especially include:

Nitrogen Dioxide or (NO2) - a harmful gas produced by burning fossil fuels such as petrol and is one of the biggest sources of NO2, this means high levels of NO2 can be found near busy well used roads. Other sources include burning coal and gas in power stations to produce electricity and gas boilers used for heating.

Nitrogen Dioxide can make it harder to breathe and can cause damage to the lungs if exposed to the gas for long periods, in particular, children or adults already suffering with breathing problems such as asthma.

Particulate Matter (PM) - microscopic materials suspended in water vapour or gases in the air. The main source of particulate matter is burning fossil fuels, particularly from petrol or diesel used in cars, vans and trucks and from the wearing down of tyres and brakes.

The most dangerous particulate matter are known as PM10 and measures 10 micrometres or smaller, those which are 2.5 micrometres or smaller are known as PM2.5, these particles are equivalent to 2.5 -10 millionths of a metre which is ten times smaller than the width of a human hair. Because of their small size they can easily be inhaled, causing both short and long term breathing and heart problems.

Air quality is measured by monitoring stations across London, results can be viewed online at Air Quality England or text ‘airTEXT Newham’ to 78070 (free) to receive alerts when pollution in the borough is exceptionally high.

What causes air pollution? 

Most air pollution comes from cars, vans, trucks, heating our homes and buildings, this means that the way we travel and heat our buildings affects the quality of air we breathe.
  • Vehicle: road traffic, supplies and deliveries, cars idling 
  • Boilers (combustion of gas releasing nitrogen dioxide)
  • Back-up generators (combustion of petrol)
  • Air conditioning systems 
  • Kitchens and canteens
  • Garden equipment (lawnmowers, leaf blowers etc. running off petrol)
  • Other equipment: gas-fired water heaters
  • Dust from building works

How does air pollution affect our health? 

The damage to our health from air pollution can start as early as birth right the way through to old age. It’s estimated that the equivalent of 40,000 lives are lost each year in the UK and five million across the world due to air pollution.

Our physical and psychological wellbeing is affected differently by the kind of air pollution we are exposed to causing potential health problems such as:
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Fatigue, headaches and anxiety
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Damage to reproductive organs
  • Harm to the liver, spleen and blood
  • Mental health issues
  • Dementia 
  • Low birth weight leading to premature birth and pregnancy loss.

What the council is doing?

Vehicle Idling Action is a London-wide behaviour change campaign which is helping to reduce localised air pollution caused by motorists leaving their engines running when parked. The project has expanded to 32 local authorities including Newham.

Over the next three years we will be delivering a number of public engagement and anti-idling action events, bringing together teams such as Air Quality Health Champions, local volunteers, project staff and local authority officers to educate both motorists and pedestrians.

We will be inviting our primary schools to host an Air Quality workshop for its year 4, 5 and 6 classes, followed by an Idling Action event in the community.

The aim is to teach pupils about the importance of air quality and empower them to think of ways they can reduce their exposure to air pollution, as well as engage teachers and parents to take action with persuading drivers and passers-by to switch off their engines when parked outside schools.

The Air Quality workshops will be delivered by Idling Action project officers offering advice and information on how we can help reduce air pollution in the area. The workshop will include: 
  • The co-creation of a banner to be displayed outside the school carrying anti-idling messages.
  • If a school already has a banner or does not want a banner we have other activities prepared (e.g. quiet route mapping). 
We are inviting our local businesses, charity or industry experts to get involved with this project through one or more of the following:
  • Become a supporter and help publicise the project and events taking place in the area.
  • Become a pledger and commit to ensure that the business and your vehicles do not idle.
  • Sign up for fleet training and host a free driver workshop delivered by us to arm your staff with how best to reduce air pollution and protect their health.

Protecting yourself and your family from polluted air

At home

We spend 90% of our time inside so it’s essential that we are breathing clean air. Indoor air pollution comes from many sources and is often hard to spot, this means we don’t usually recognise the risks at home. The more common causes of indoor pollution include:
  • Heating and cooking 
  • Burning items such as solid fuels in stoves, open fires and candles 
  • Harmful chemical content in building products, for example paints and varnishes, chipboard furniture, carpets and sofas 
  • Fumes from cleaning and personal care products 
  • Mould found on your walls and windows
What you can do to protect yourself at home?
  • Ventilate your home by opening windows and using extractor fans when cooking or using cleaning products. Close windows near busy roads during rush hours.
  • Use fragrance free milder cleaning products.
  • Only burn dry well-seasoned wood or smokeless fuel on your stove, open fire or barbeque
  • Choose paints and varnishes that are labelled low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Outside of the home 

Many of us are more aware of the pollution we experience when we are outside but not all of us know how to reduce exposure or avoid it. The most common causes of pollution include: 
  • Vehicles, especially diesel vehicles
  • Cars not being well maintained and tyres not being properly inflated.
  • Emissions from deliveries
What you can do to protect yourself outside of the home?
  • Give your car a day off – walk, cycle or take public transport to work or school, or work from home if you can.
  • Use quieter streets when cycling or on foot to avoid polluted main roads.
  • Go electric – there are lots of ways you can travel electric. Hire an electric car, taxi or test drive an electric vehicle today. 
  • Don’t idle – if you drive, turn off your engine when your vehicle is stationary and safe to do so.
  • Use the Click and Collect method to receive parcels and reduce the amount of travelling delivery vehicles make.

Get involved and attend other events to improve air quality

By working together we can help improve the quality of our air. You can join us and become our Air Quality Health Champion through:
  • Talking to your neighbours about air pollution 
  • Running an air quality event at your workplace 
  • Coordinating a no-idling event in your community 
  • Organising a walking bus to take children to school
There a number of other events that are delivered across London as well as Newham to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution and actions that can be taken to improve air quality or reduce exposure to pollution. 
  • Car Free Day - held on 22 September the day is dedicated to promoting regular car-free days and celebrating the opportunity to convert roads and parking spaces across the city to more socially and economically productive uses as public parks, reducing the number of vehicles on the road for a day. Previous events in Newham included street closures, school and community events. 
  • Clean Air Day - national air quality awareness day is held on the third Thursday in June. Previous events included a clean air walk, school engagement activities and cleaner vehicle trials.
  • Walk to School Week - is the Living Streets campaign to tackle child obesity. On 18-22 May the organisation creates a themed challenge for school children to tackle whilst taking part on the school walk.
  • Sustrans Big Pedal - is the UK’s largest inter-school cycling, walking and scooting challenge, supporting pupils, staff and parents to choose human power for their journey to school. The event lasts for 10 days from 22 April to 5 May 2020. 

Find out more

If you are concerned about idling and want to tackle poor air quality in your borough, we a want to hear from you.

Please email for more information about volunteering, action events and opportunities for businesses operating in Newham.

For other air quality and pollution related enquiries and suggestions please email Environmental Control Team.

Adoption and enforcement of vehicle anti-idling offences in Newham

The Mayor of Newham is committed to tackling air pollution and Newham’s strategy is set out in Air Quality and Climate Change Strategic Intent Part One: Air Quality Action Planning for LB Newham. The Mayor confirmed the Council’s intention to enforce vehicle anti-idling legislation which was adopted by Newham Council in September 2019 under Regulation 12 of The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002 and Regulation 98​ of The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. 

Therefore it is an offence to leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a road. Local Authorities as well as Newham have been given the powers to enforce the switching off of engines when vehicles are stationary on the road. This enables local authorities to issue a £40.00 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) to a driver who is committing an offence by idling their vehicles engine.
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