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Why shopping on Oxford Street isn't just bad for your bank balance

July 23rd 2014 / Emma Jones


New research reveals the retailers’ paradise has three times the amount of pollution it should

We know it’s naughty, but we’ve always found a little retail therapy goes a long way towards beating the blues. Unfortunately, recent research has suggested that shopping on Oxford Street might not be quite as good for us as we thought, with experts claiming pollution levels at our number one retail destination are the highest in the world.

One expert, a scientist from King’s College London, said he recorded an average of 135 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre - three times higher than the average level deemed safe by the EU.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, David Carslaw said: “To my knowledge, this level is the highest in the world in terms of both hourly and annual mean. NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) concentrations [in Oxford Street] are as high as they ever have been in the long history of air pollution.”

A toxic blend of traffic, poor ventilation and being at the centre of one of the world’s highest producing NO2 cities makes Oxford Street ‘a street canyon’ which maximises the concentration of the gas, experts said. The street has broken hourly limits of 200 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre more than 1,500 times this year, and has been described as having “easily the highest annual mean NO2 concentration in Europe.”

In comparison to highs of 463 micrograms per cubic metre for Oxford Street, the smoggy skies of Delhi and Mumbai average NO2 levels of just 62.

So what does this mean for our health? Research has shown that nitrogen dioxide produced by diesel fumes can trigger asthma and heart attacks, as well as irritating the lining of the lungs and leaving healthy people susceptible to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis. It leaves skin weak, red and itchy, and with almost 30,000 people dying every year from respiratory problems caused by air pollution linked to breathing issues, Londoners are now calling increasingly for a solution to be found.

Although dissapointed to learn of the dangers of Oxford Street, we bet the bank balances of retail addicts everywhere are rejoicing right now.

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