London Deputy Mayor for Transport Isabel Dedring speaks at The Atlantic's CityLab 2015 summit in London. Melanie Leigh Wilbur

“The same people who say it’s unacceptable that little Bobby has asthma will get in their big SUV and drive their child to school,” says London Deputy Mayor for Transport Isabel Dedring.

People just aren’t being vocal enough about pollution in London. That message comes not from a fringe environmental group but from the city’s own Deputy Mayor for Transport, Isabel Dedring. During an interview at The Atlantic’s CityLab 2015 summit in London Monday, Dedring cited statistics that suggested an alarming rate of pollution-related premature death in the city—a rate that nonetheless had not yet fully mobilized public outrage.

“Everybody should get a lot more exercised about air pollution than they do, because it does have very obvious and immediate health impacts. We did a study showing 4,300 people in London are dying prematurely because of air pollution. Now the level is probably three times higher than that because of other materials we hadn’t taken into account.”

Dedring says those figures come from a study lead by Kings College London, commissioned by the Mayor’s office. The figure of 4,300 Dedring cites for premature deaths concerns those caused exclusively by particulate matter. Since then, she says, the Mayor’s office has commissioned further studies on the effect of nitrous oxide pollution, which found it caused the premature deaths of between 11,000 and 12,000 Londoners annually.

While these figures would cause anyone concern, Dedring pointed out the difficulty of building momentum behind getting people to change their personal behavior.

“The same people who say it’s unacceptable that little Bobby has asthma will get in their big SUV and drive their child to school,” Dedring said. “So people don’t connect their own behaviors with the experience of pollution out on the street.”

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