Commuters who travel regularly on the London Underground are breathing in around 12 million toxic ‘nanodust’ particles every single minute, according to figures released by Transport for London.
The tiny particles comprised mostly of iron oxide are generated by the train’s wheels as they interact with the rails and are small enough to directly enter organs and even the brain.
According to the British Lung Foundation, the particles can include copper, chromium, manganese and zinc.
Inhaling any of these particles then increase a person’s risk of asthma, lung and cardiovascular disease as well as increasing the risk of dementia.
The shocking figures were revealed after The Sunday Times issued a Freedom of Information request to TfL asking for the air quality figures from each of its underground lines.
Trawling through the monitoring data it was found that on the Central Line that particle levels reached a whopping 2 million particles per litre of air. Considering humans breathe on average 10-12 litres of air per minute it stands to reason that on average a person could be inhaling some 12-20 million particles at any given moment.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long been highlighting the risks of both indoor and outdoor air pollution, citing that humans shouldn’t consume more than 50 micrograms of particles per cubic meter every 24 hours.
While the figures seemingly exceed that TfL has insisted that commuters are not at risk because they spend very little time actually commuting.
Air pollution is reportedly responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people in the UK every single year, while WHO reports that indoor air pollution alone is killing 99,000 people every year in Europe.
Yet despite these shocking figures cities are struggling to keep air quality under control.
London set a damming precedent after it breached its air pollution targets for the whole of 2017 within the first five days of the year.
Since then numerous air quality warnings have been issued with residents advised to stay indoors or minimise the amount of travelling they do outside.
Paris has taken drastic measures to try and curb its air pollution. At the beginning of this year it banned all vehicles registered before the year 2000 while imposing strict new parking rules, charging users ‘pollution tickets’ and reducing the costs of public transport.
In addition Paris officials started rolling out a network of ‘Smart Trees’ that combine advanced air quality sensors with moss cultures that can reduce the amount of fine dust in the air.