Air quality in Newham

Helping to clean up Newham’s 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. 

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 are: 

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 is the council doing to help reduce this pollution? 

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. 

For more information contact: [email protected] or see​ 

Report dust, smoke or other nuisances

For complaints about odour from large industry:

Email: [email protected]

Call us on 020 3373 0643

If you need help out of office hours call the Initial Response Team on 020 8472 9624

If you think you smell gas, call The National Grid immediately on 0800 111 999

Report air pollution