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London Marathon Leads to 89% Drop in Air Pollution

Health + Wellness
The 2018 London Marathon dropped air pollution on one street along its route by 89 percent. Kleon3 / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Global Action Plan, a non-profit organization dedicated to tackling "throw away culture" and the impact it has on humans and the planet, discovered an unexpected health benefit to running marathons.


The group looked at data from air quality monitoring stations along Upper Thames Street, part of the route of the London Marathon, which took place Sunday and causes street closures and traffic reduction as cars make way for runners.

Comparing the data from the marathon with data from the previous three Sundays, the group found an 89 percent drop in air pollution the day of the marathon, Huffington Post UK reported Monday.

"Taking collective action to tackle air pollution every day can make a massive difference, as shown at the London Marathon 2018," Global Action Plan Head of Health Larissa Lockwood told The Huffington Post UK.

The air quality monitor Global Action Plan looked at is part of a larger set of monitors called the London Air Quality Network, which is managed by Kings College London. Global Action Plan looked at air quality from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the days it focused on.

"With traffic free streets pollution levels dropped by 89%. Imagine if more people left the car at home every day. We would suffer far fewer health problems from air pollution," Lockwood said.

Her organization is using these findings to renew calls for a "car free day" in London on June 21, The Evening Standard reported Monday.

The news comes amidst growing concern about air pollution both in the UK and worldwide.

A joint inquiry from four parliamentary committees published in March called air pollution in the UK, which kills 40,000 people annually, a "national health emergency."

And the most recent State of Global Air report, published this April by the Health Effects Institute, found that 95 percent of humans breathe unsafe air. There is increasing evidence from the scientific community that exposure to particulate matter doesn't just cause circulatory and respiratory illness, but also harms brain development in children, leading University of Rochester environmental medicine Prof. Deborah Cory-Slechta to call it "the next lead."

The UK's efforts to combat climate change could have an added benefit of solving its air pollution woes. Currently, the country has plans to ban the sale of new diesel and gas cars by 2040, The Guardian reported.

But on April 17, Environment Minister Claire Perry announced the country would review its climate goals with the intention of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Bringing forward the diesel-and-gas-new-sales ban could help the country reach that goal. And, as the London Marathon data indicates, it would help its capital breathe easier as well.

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