Did Mayor's Office Make Veiled Threat To Pollution Scientists?

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 50 months ago
Did Mayor's Office Make Veiled Threat To Pollution Scientists?

Buses on Oxford Street. Photo by miners04, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Top air pollution scientists claim they felt threatened by the Mayor of London's environment adviser, after they criticised high levels of air pollution on Oxford Street.

Back in July, Londonist reported that Dr David Carslaw —  principal air quality scientist at King’s Environmental Research Group (ERG) — had informed the Sunday Times that the air pollution on Oxford Street was above what it should be.

Now, an email correspondence has come to light, in which Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s environment adviser writes to Sir Richard Trainor, principal of King’s College London, criticising Carslaw's "false allegations", saying he is "surprised and disappointed" by the "misleading quote".

In the correspondence, Pencharz says that many cities in other countries didn't monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at the kerbside — while ERG did so in their London research. Pencharz suggests this “important context” should have been highlighted.

More interestingly, Pencharz then goes on to write:

"... we will not be able to work together if you continue to play the man and not the ball — most of all based on a falsehood."

According to the Times today, a source close to King's has said that the scientists felt that the statement inferred that their funding from the Mayor would be withdrawn.

Perhaps predictably, the Mayor's office has denied the allegations, a spokesperson saying:

"These claims are untrue and unfounded. The mayor’s work to assess and address London’s air quality challenge is entirely transparent. He... is working with a wide range of stakeholders to take forward a range of measures to reduce air pollution.”

In a June 2014 conference, Carslaw claimed that NO2 concentration levels recorded in Oxford Street were the highest he had come across anywhere — over three times the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. A prime cause of the air pollution, said Carslaw, is the constant stream of diesel buses, compounded by the street's lofty buildings, which create a 'canyon effect'.

Campaigners have been outspoken against Boris Johnson's perceived failure to do enough to tackle air pollution, which in turn risks fines from the European Commission (EC). Indeed, the EC has now implemented legal proceedings against Britain for breaching pollution limits.

Last Updated 24 October 2014