The tube can be a hot, busy and pretty stressful way to get about town – but plenty of Londoners rely on it day-in, day-out. So it’s definitely good to know how riding the tube might be affecting our health.
And a study recently conducted by TfL can shed some light on that. The transport operator commissioned some research across eight tube lines to assess pollution levels, including levels of ‘respirable’ dust (which can reach deep into your lungs) and ‘inhalable’ dust (airborne material that enters the nose and mouth). So, what’s the research saying?
The Victoria, Piccadilly, Central, Northern, Jubilee, Bakerloo, Circle and District Lines were analysed – and ‘elevated particulate matter concentrations’ were found across all of them, according to the Standard. But there is some good news: nowhere breached even half the legal limits for dust, and dust levels found on station staff were around a tenth of the ‘harmful’ limit.
Of course there were some lines and stations that had higher concentrations than others, and the highest average of all was recorded on (drum roll, please) the Northern Line. But, given this is the busiest line with some of the network’s busiest stations, we aren’t super surprised.
The lowest concentrations were on the Jubilee, Circle and District Lines, but strangely it was Barking, a green line station, that had the highest single reading for dust. However, levels overall were lower last year compared to 2020.
A separate study on inhalable metals at tube stations from 2023 was also pretty revealing. Vauxhall and Holborn had the highest readings for aluminium concentrations, Mile End and Oxford Circus had the highest for copper, and King’s Cross (specifically the northbound Northern Line platform) and Hampstead had the highest for iron oxide. But still, no unsafe levels were recorded.
On the fact that dust levels have lowered, Lilli Matson, TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer, said: ‘While we’ll continue our work, this positive result demonstrates our approach to understanding and tackling the issue of dust and air quality on the Tube network is making a difference, both for our colleagues and our customers.’
So, while the presence of potentially harmful dust and metals might trigger the urge to fish out a dreaded mask of some kind, it sounds like measures are being taken to make sure the tube continues to be safe for its employees and passengers.
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