by Olivia Hanks
The news that Boris Johnson buried a report on air pollution around schools while mayor of London does not exactly come as a surprise. Johnson’s record on air quality was atrocious – despite widespread concern over the issue throughout his eight years as mayor, virtually nothing has been done to alleviate what the World Health Organisation has called a public health crisis. The Campaign for Clean Air in London and the Environmental Audit Committee have been highly critical of Johnson for his inaction. And although London is the worst offender, many UK cities are in breach of EU laws on pollution, with little sign that the problem is being taken sufficiently seriously. Castle Meadow in Norwich has recorded nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels above EU legal limits every year since 2007 – a situation which Bert Bremner, the Labour city councillor with responsibility for environmental issues, described in a BBC Look East interview (interview starts at 4:31) earlier this year as “not dangerous […] the reality is what you feel when you’re there”. This, replicated across the UK, is the attitude that has led to inertia on this issue for so long – the ‘my grandma smoked 80 a day and she lived to 102’ school of argument.