On average, air pollution levels are up to four times the European legal limit, according to statistics released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
A Sunday Times freedom of information request has revealed that the roads around Buckingham Palace are the country's most polluted, with all of the top 50 hotspots located within the capital. 152 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre have been recorded, with the European Law permitting no more than 40 micrograms.
Diesel engine cars are thought to be the greatest source of the toxic fumes. As a result, certain older diesel engines have been banned in Berlin, Germany, something director of Clean Air, Simon Birkett has called for in the UK.
“The thought that hundreds of thousands or millions of tourists and Londoners in a year may be exposed to air pollution this high is deeply troubling,” Birkett told the Independent.
Believed to kill around 30,000 UK residents prematurely per year through respiratory complications, air pollution is second only to smoking as the most deadly public health issue.
Cyclists, however, could be at less risk than many may assume, according to a study on pollution and transport. Ben Barratt at the KCL tested the exposure to black carbon over a 24-hour period in London, using a cycle courier, an ambulance driver, a toddler, a pensioner, an office worker and a student as a test pool. The cyclist, depsite being out in the open air perhaps the longest, came second lowest on the exposure test, with the ambulance driver claiming top spot.