Black Communities in London More Likely to Suffer Poor Air Quality

Greenpeace UK and the Runnymede Trust UK recently conducted research that highlighted the differences in climate crisis impacts on minority residents, such as the black and Asian communities. The research proves that there are air pollution sacrifice areas – or places that have zero or limited green space access – high deprivation levels, varying demographics, and social and low-cost private housing exist along with infrastructures that are heavy pollutants, such as incinerators, industrial sites, and recycling facilities.

The Runnymede Trust UK CEO Dr. Halima Begum said that several factors affect the vulnerability of the said communities, such as carbon emissions and environmental degradation. Vehicles clog up roads and their incinerators are filled with toxic wastes.

Systematic racism is also a significant factor as marginalised groups often have limited choices when it comes to their residential options. Most of them have unstable jobs that pay the lowest rates, limited housing options, and squalid living conditions. These communities are also more vulnerable to the high cost of living.

Most of the deprived communities in the UK are situated in areas close to or near waste incinerators. Around 1/3 of the total number of these incinerators are found in such communities, while only a small number are located near or within wealthy or high-end neighbourhoods.

Activist and academic, Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert, points out that these deprived communities are often sacrificed and utilised for profit-gaining projects such as airports. As such, one should not be surprised that Ella Kissi-Debrah, a resident of Lewisham, died at the young age of nine after a severe asthma attack. The coroner ruled her death was caused by air pollution. Hers was the first case of its kind in the UK.

In 2021, City Hall conducted research that showed the vulnerability of non-white communities to air pollution. It has the same findings as the Greenpeace UK and Runnymede study.

Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ

In response to the clamour for more stringent measures against air pollution, Mayor Sadiq Khan has come up with several projects, one of which is the ULEZ or Ultra Low Emission Zone. It is an area where highly polluting vehicles are charged a fee if they want to pass through or drive inside the zone.

Mayor Sadiq recently expanded the ULEZ so it now includes areas situated within the North and South Circular Roads (where Ella used to pass by every day on her way to school). However, A406 (the North Circular) and A205 (the South Circular) roads are not included in the expanded ULEZ.

The ULEZ aims to reduce toxic vehicle emissions and is operational 24/7 (except on Christmas Day).

Why emissions are bad

Vehicle emissions have been around for decades but they became a prominent issue in 2015 after the Dieselgate scandal broke. The California Air Resources Board and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allegedly found defeat devices in Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles. The Volkswagen Group sold these vehicles to American consumers without telling them that they were equipped with cheat devices. Authorities fined the VW Group and required them to recall vehicles. Affected car owners brought a class-action lawsuit against the carmaker.

Other carmakers were also involved in the diesel emissions scandal, including Mercedes-Benz. Like VW, the carmaker was accused of using defeat devices in their diesel vehicles.

A defeat device is intended to detect when a vehicle goes into the lab for emissions testing so it could mask and suppress emissions levels to within the legal levels set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

When the vehicle is brought out and driven on real roads, it switches to its original settings and emits high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx). These amounts are often multiple times higher than the limits set by the EU and WHO. Thus, the vehicle is a significant contributor to air pollution.

Nitrogen oxide emissions are a danger to the environment and to human health. They have adverse impacts on both.

NOx is a combination of gases, particularly nitric oxide or NO and nitrogen dioxide or NO2. It contributes to the formation of acid rain and smog. It also produces ground-level ozone when it reacts with other chemicals. Ground-level ozone harms vegetation and makes plants and crops weak so they become susceptible to frost and damage.  Nitrogen oxide also stunts plant and crop growth.

Nitrogen oxide emissions are most dangerous because of their health impacts. A person who is exposed to NOx emissions can suffer from or experience several effects, including:

  • Mental health triggers for anxiety and depression
  • Loss of or reduction of cognitive abilities
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lung problems, including fluid in the lungs
  • Asphyxiation
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Laryngospasm (or spasm of the vocal cords)
  • Increased susceptibility for developing cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers
  • Premature death

These life-threatening emissions impacts should be enough reasons for any car owner to seriously claim compensation from their erring manufacturer.

Your Dieselgate compensation claim

Start working on your Dieselgate compensation claim by first determining if you are eligible to claim. Visit the website and schedule a meeting with their panel of emissions solicitors to verify your eligibility for a diesel claim. You deserve to receive compensation for the inconvenience that your carmaker caused you.

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