Wednesday 18 December 2019 12:10 pm

Experts unsure about the effect of air pollution on the Tube

The effects of the high levels of dust and air pollution throughout London’s Tube system is unknown, according to a new report.

A London Assembly report into Tube dust confirmed that “concentrations of particulate matter on underground platforms” are much higher than outside.

Read more: London Underground has the city’s highest level of air pollution

It comes after it was reported last month that the level of air pollution on the Tube was up to eight-times above the World Health Organisation’s safe limit.


However, the report also found there was not enough information into the health effects of the types of particulate matter found on the tube.

Particulate matter at these high levels can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems in outdoor environments, however it is unknown what the effects of the particulate matter on the London Underground will have as it is made up of different properties.

Professor Martin Williams, air quality researcher at King’s College London, said: “The makeup of the particles is completely different in the underground from the ambient.

“It is virtually all metals or metal oxides. You get very little of that stuff in the ambient atmosphere.

“In the underground, you do not get any of the diesel exhausts and the combustion emissions that we know are toxic.”

TfL has now commissioned studies to look at the effect Tube dust has had on workers over the past 50 years.

Lilli Matson, TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer, said: “We know that further research is needed, which is why we are funding academics to conduct studies and gain a better understanding of the health risks associated with air on the Tube.”


The report, written by the London Assembly’s environment committee, also questioned the current level of air pollution deemed safe for workers on the London Underground.

The committee said the level set as being safe for workers was created in 2005 and is now outdated.

It suggested that TfL “takes prompt action to assess the appropriateness” of the levels considered healthy for workers.

Green Party co-leader, and environment committee chair, Caroline Russell gave mayor of London Sadiq Khan until February to respond to the report recommendations.

“We have called on the Mayor to urgently instruct TfL to make Tube dust a bigger priority than it currently is” she said.

Read more: Anti-Conservative Tube ads to be referred to watchdog

“We need to see real action being taken to identify any health harm and to tackle Tube dust on all Underground lines.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “Following the recommendation of experts, the Mayor has tasked TfL – who are responsible for managing dust levels on the Tube – with undertaking additional research to understand potential health impacts, trialling innovative approaches to address the problem and ensuring the Underground is as clean as possible.”

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