Mary Poppins scolds government as annual air pollution limits broken just five days into 2017

Publication date: 6th January 2017

Pictures of the action available HERE

This morning, as the UK broke 2017’s annual air pollution limits only 5 days into the year (3 days earlier than last year), childhood champion Mary Poppins was spotted soaring over Parliament in a pollution mask, calling on politicians to clean up the UK’s air to protect kids’ lungs.

Greenpeace, which is behind her appearance today, is urging the government to end the sale of new diesel cars, most of which pump out between two to 15 times the legal limits, and push manufacturers to rapidly shift to hybrid and electric vehicles.

Paul Morozzo, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “It’s shocking that it’s taken only 5 days to break the UK’s annual limit of air pollution. Despite growing concerns about the health impacts of diesel fumes, the government has done almost nothing to tackle car companies since they were caught cheating emissions tests.

“In London new rules will mean new taxis and buses will from next year have to be hybrid or better but nothing is happening on diesel cars despite alternatives being readily available. Unbelievably, the government is still incentivising consumers to buy brand new diesel cars that are pumping out illegal levels of pollution.

“If cars coming off the production line had dodgy brakes, you know the government would step in to sort it out. We urgently need to stop the sale of new diesel models until emission testing is truly fit for purpose. Better still, we need car companies to phase out diesel completely and concentrate on hybrid and electric alternatives.”

Under EU rules, any single location in the UK is only allowed to breach hourly limits of 200 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air 18 times in a year, but late last night Brixton Road broke that limit for the 19th time. That breach means the UK has already violated 2017’s annual air pollution limits just 5 days into the year. Remarkably, Brixton Road had 17 exceedances in just one day yesterday. Last year, Putney High Street breached this limit more than 1,000 times.

In the past few months, doctors, health professionals and campaigners, have all spoken out about the devastating impact of air pollution on human health, especially children’s.

Air pollution can cause asthma in otherwise healthy children, stunts children’s lung growth permanently by up to 10%, and is linked to strokes, heart disease and diabetes in older people.

In November 2016, the High Court ruled for the second time in 18 months that the government is not doing enough to combat the air pollution crisis. The judge also said ministers knew that over-optimistic pollution modelling was being used, based on flawed lab tests of diesel vehicles rather than actual emissions on the road. The government must now look again at proposals to bring pollution levels down to legal levels.




Contact: Alexandra Sedgwick, 07773 043386,



  7. Leeds Uni research in “Traffic Fumes Give Asthma to Children, Sunday Times, 27.11.16”
  8. Kings College research in Sunday Times
  9. Royal College of Physicians (2016) Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, report of a working party.