The study recommends better ventilation of the tube


Discovers that improving ventilation could be key to London Undergrounds managing air quality New studyA lack of fresh air is found at London’s Deep Underground station, and air pollution is at its worst during evening rush hour, according to new research led by Surrey University, Conducted as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded inhale project.

The Surrey Center for Global Clear Air Research (GCARE) collected airborne particles on a platform deep (about 18 meters underground) at South Kensington Station. The results found that the underground environment tested exceeded the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines for fine and coarse air pollution particles*, although it is still within the limits set by the Health and Safety Administration.

The collected contamination was analyzed using an electron microscope by Imperial College London to test its composition, which revealed trace amounts of ultrafine particles (100 nanometers or less), including iron, manganese, traces of chromium and toxic organic matter.

Professor Prashant Kumar, Study Leader and Director of GCARE at the University of Surrey, said:

“More work needs to be done to understand how the effects of metals in small airborne particles affect people’s health. In the meantime, we recommend that consideration be given to improving ventilation in the London Underground where possible.”

“We accept that air pollution on platforms is a very complex problem to solve and that an effort is being made to clean up Underground during periods of calm. Our team points to the newly opened Elizabeth Line as an example of good practice – in particular, the use of a screen between the train and the platform to protect passengers from pollution from trains.”

Particles were observed and collected on the Piccadilly East Line platform at South Kensington Station, which also serves the county and circuit lines. The Piccadilly line is a line with a deep level that is relatively closed to the outside air.

The team monitored air pollution in one platform at the station during working hours (from five in the morning until midnight) and non-working times. The study took place from September 2020 until October 2020.

The researchers also found that a subway station contains about twice as many coarse air pollution particles during operating hours as during non-operating hours — which they estimate may find their way into a person’s human respiratory system, but primarily into the nose and upper part of the lungs.

Moreover, the research also indicated that 81 percent of the very smallest particles that can be reduced to the size of nanoparticles (which equals 1/800 the size of a human hair) can find their way into the deeper region of humans. lungs, which can cause health problems.

Professor Alex Porter of Imperial College London, who led the examination of the collected particles under an electron microscope, said:

Our research provides interesting preliminary clues about pollution levels within a single subway station. This is the first time that the chemistry of the smallest molecules, which can penetrate deep into the lung and can damage cells, has been identified. Future research will help determine the potential health effects of such exposure.”

The research was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The research is part of the INHALE project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, led by Imperial College London, in which the University of Surrey and the University of Edinburgh are participating.


* Ultrafine (PM0.1), fine (PM0.1-2.5) and coarse (PM2.5-10) particles

Reference: Kumar, P., Zavala-Reyes, J. C., Kalaiarasan, G., Abubakar-Waziri, H., Young, G., Ian Mudway, I., Dilliway, C., Lakhdar, R., Mumby, S. Kłosowski, M. M., Pain, C., Adcock, I. M., Watson, J. S., Sephton, MA, Chung, K. F., Alexandra E. Porter, A. E. (2022). Characteristics of micro and micro aerosols in the London Underground. College Ecology 159315. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159315

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