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Getting sticky with pollution: London's clean up

Getting sticky with pollution: London's clean up

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The streets of London are being sprayed with a new substance in an attempt to keep polluted matter from entering our lungs.

London is experimenting with a new, novel approach to tackle the issue of air pollution in 'The Big Smoke'.

As London is approaching dangerous ground in terms of breaching European Union legal limits for PM10 pollutants within several central locations, the Mayor has been pressurized to introduce both long and short-term solutions to tackle the concerns of air pollution to avoid heavy fines.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said:

"We have scoured the globe to find new ways to tackle pollution and found this wonderful contraption that tackles air quality head on, sticking particles to the roads' surface and preventing their dastardly escape back into the air we breathe."

The mayor views the dust suppressant as one of many short-term methods designed to clean London's air -- possibly viewed as more of a priority issue due to the Olympics later this year. Roads are also scheduled to be deep-cleaned in the run-up to summer.

Locations in five London boroughs are set to use the 'dust suppressant' technology, which started early trials in Nov 2011. The solution is applied on roads around construction and industrial sites that endure high volumes of road traffic or dust, in an attempt to prevent pollutants from entering the lungs of citizens.

The pollutant on trial, PM10, is caused mainly by engine emissions, construction and vehicle tyres. It is known to exacerbate respiratory conditions, including aggravating conditions such as asthma.

The dust suppressant is a bio-degradable solution made from calcium magnesium acetate, which sticks to particle matter and prevents it becoming airborne. It will be applied between 12.00am and 6.00am, and will be applied several times a week throughout the next six months. It is hoped that PM10 levels will become reduced by 10 to 20 percent in heavily congested areas.

David Brown, Managing Director, Surface Transport, said:

"This is the continuation of a long line of joint TfL and Mayoral measures that will help clean London's air. An increase in numbers of hybrid buses, and the introduction of new Low Emission Zone standards will all go towards reducing pollution levels to work to bring London's air quality in line with legal and safe limits."

It may not be a grand step to clean London's air or tackle carbon emissions, but as a Londoner myself, any step to reduce pollutants in the air can only be beneficial. There is a definitive, polluted quality about the air in London -- when travelling (whether merely to Kent or as far as the Middle East) I will always have a minimum of a week, without fail, of coughing fits when I return.

You may not notice it so much as your body adjusts, but there is no doubt living in such a polluted city does cause damage, and any movements to limit this can only be advantageous.

Photo credit: Flickr

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure