While London may be the birthplace of the iconic Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, it is also home to the most polluted street in the world. According to researchers from Kings College London, Oxford Street in London has higher emission concentrations than anywhere else. This is not to say you should revise your English vacation plans, but perhaps booking a hotel located on the outskirts of the bustling city may be a wiser choice.

Three Times Over EU Recommended Levels

Nitrogen dioxide, NO2, is emitted from the exhaust pipes of motor vehicles, and scientist David Carslaw from Kings College London has informed us that London has tons of the stuff. NO2 can be found naturally in our environment and is sometimes produced by plants and water, but these natural sources only make up about one percent of the NO2 found in city air. Using a monitor, scientists found that at its peak the levels of nitrogen dioxide can reach 463 micrograms per cubic meter, The Independent reported. On average the amounts are more closely around 135, but this is still far above, three times to be precise, what the European Union has labeled as safe.

Health Risks?

High levels of NO2 can affect the likelihood of respiratory problems. The chemical irritates the lining of the lungs and leaves one more susceptible to lung infections. Noticeable symptoms include wheezing, coughing, colds, flu, and bronchitis. Long-term, it is known to be linked to asthma and heart attacks. Green Facts reports that although studies have linked long-term exposure to NO2 to death, there is not enough evidence at the moment to prove this.

What’s Being Done?

London Mayor Boris Johnson is currently working on reducing the large number of buses that regularly visit the street. Already the number of buses that frequent the location has been cut down by a fifth. “We are working closely with the relevant London authorities to look at longer term traffic reduction initiatives and we are keen to see ideas rapidly put in place," said Richard Dickinson, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents traders in Oxford Street. This is at the request of businesses in the area that “want action.” Cabs that produce fewer emissions are also being introduced to the city. Unfortunately, the transition process from fuel to hybrid is completely up to taxi services and is likely to take some time.