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Truth Behind the Headlines: Exhaust fume pollution in London ‘close to level before COVID lockdown’

The media reported that a recent study of air pollution caused by traffic emissions, showed that some areas in London have seen ‘significant spikes’ of vehicle exhaust pollutants. In some areas pollution is almost back to pre-lockdown levels. 


It was reported that Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) has risen to 96% of ‘usual’ levels for a site on the Marylebone Road and at three sites which recorded increases, the average NO2 level is 90% of pre-lockdown records. 

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to the analysis of data from air pollution monitoring sites in London, no link to the analysis was provided.  

2. Who is behind the study it refers to? Clean Air in London  who are a not-for-profit organisation which seeks full compliance with WHO guidelines for air quality throughout London and elsewhere.  It works closely with other campaign groups and a wider network of supporters and volunteers to identify and build understanding of the most important issues and encourage decisive action on them. 
3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

There is a reference to the analysis of recorded data to back this claim, but because the study is not referenced, it is not possible to assess the methodology or data used.  


Within the article only three locations are named and no information is given about whether these were the only sites for which data were analysed, or if these were the only sites where the recorded NO2 had increased. There was also mention of spikes in the data but no information was given about when the spikes occurred. Air pollutants can vary over time for many reasons and these need to be considered.  

4. What geographical region does the claim refer to? London
5. What is the sample size of the study?

Because the original study cannot be found, the sample size is unknown, although three locations are referred to by the reporting media. 

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