For the past few months, a Johnson-sanctioned fleet of custom gritting lorries has conducted nightly adhesvie spraying missions at some of London’s most heavily polluted areas, including Victoria Embankment, Earl’s Court Road, roads leading to the Blackwall Tunnel and in the Euston area.
The idea is that the calcium-based solution will stick tiny sooty particles, called PM10s, to the road.
PM10 is produced by exhaust fumes as well as tyre and brake wear and can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death.
It is estimated that 4000 people died in London in 2008 due to air pollution.
London mayor Boris Johnson refers to the lorries “wonderful contraptions” and say they tackle air quality head-on.
“The point about this substance is that whilst it is taking particulates out of the air it is making them impossible for you to ingest or to inhale,” he said.
“And that means it is reducing pollution – unless you bend over get down on all fours and snort it.”
But others strongly disagree. Prof Frank Kelly of King’s College London is adamant the idea is a “waste of public money”.
“This does not deal with the problem at source,” says Kelly, who is an expert on the impact of atmospheric pollution on human health.
“The moment they stop the spraying, the problem arises again.”
Kelly is convinced Johnson’s solution is set up only to avoid fines of up to £300m for failing to comply with EU air quality standards.
“As a health research scientist I am just aghast that they are trying to hide the problem in this way from the European Commission,” Kelly says.
Offical figure show that air pollution in London hit its highest level since 2003 earlier this year.
The city will be in breach of EU pollution standards in 2012 if there are more than 35 “bad air” days, after which further action can be taken by the European Commission.
The Green Party claims it’s no coincidence that the one air monitoring station used by the mayor Boris Johnson to report to the Commission is on one of the routes being sprayed.
“They are cheating, making it look as if targets are being met when they are not with the use of this road glue,” said Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London Assembly.
“Pollution is a problem all over London not just in a few streets.”