Worst London tube lines and stations for air pollution exposed in worrying research

By Alma Fabiani

Published Jul 29, 2023 at 09:15 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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Despite transport bosses being urged to reduce pollution on the London Underground network back in 2019 after it was found to be 30 times higher than on busy roads in the capital, not much has improved since then, as revealed in a TikToker’s worrying videos.

At the time, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) warned Transport for London it was “likely that there is some health risk associated with exposure to underground PM,” tiny particles known as “particulate matter.” In its first study looking into the issue since 1998, COMEAP found underground particles were larger in size and concentration than those in outdoor air above ground. Long story short, this is bad news for the millions of daily commuters.

Tanya Beri, founder of CAIR London, a mobile app coming to the city to help London Underground users reduce their air pollution exposure, is on a mission to expose just how toxic the air we breathe on the tube is. “Whilst it’s without a doubt one of the best transportation systems in the world, I discovered that using it was exposing us to PM2.5 (air pollution) up to 7x above the World health organisation’s recommended safe limit. […] I went off to research air pollution issues in the UK and was shocked to discover how polluted the London Underground was,” Beri writes on her website.

Over on TikTok, the researcher is raising awareness one video at a time by measuring which tube lines and tube stops have the most polluted air in order to help commuters travel on a safer and healthier journey.

Find out which London Underground lines and stations to avoid below. But first, wanna know why the air is so polluted in the first place?

@cairlondon

So, why is the London Underground so polluted? It’s a combination of: 🚆 The model of trains in use ☁️ lack of ventilation 👵🏼 The age of the tube line ⚙️ Friction in the breaking mechanisms ⏬ Depth of the station 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 & probably the most disgusting - us! The passengers (Harrison and Hester, 2009). One of the worst lines, the Victoria Line does not have any sections of the line which are above ground and is 15.7m deep below street level. If we were to compare this to the Metropolitan, we have large stretches of the line above ground and underground only being 7m below street level, meaning there is much better ventilation. (J.D, Smith et el, 2020). So we have these old trains in poorly ventilated tunnels with iron being released from friction of the brakes and the wheels alongside various other harmful components - but according to Alno Lesh, operational manager for track cleaning, a lot of the dust down there is coming from passengers themselves - that’s right, us! Quite a disgusting thought knowing you could be breathing in someone’s hair… For more information follow us at @cair.london J.D. Smith, B.M. Barratt, G.W. Fuller, F.J. Kelly, M. Loxham, E. Nicolosi, M. Priestman, A.H. Tremper, D.C. Green (2020), PM2.5 on the London Underground,Environment International, Volume 134 llondonundergroundmapllondonundergroundstationvvictorialinellondoncommuteccop26glasgowccop26actionaairpollutionsucksaairpollutionawarenessaairpollutionsolutionttravellondonmetropolitanline

♬ original sound - CAIR London

The Elizabeth line is somewhat safe

Keeping in mind that 25ug/m3 is the UK’s recommended safe limit to PM2.5 (aka air pollution), it’s kind of reassuring (and yet still scary) that the newly-built Elizabeth line falls just above, at around 25.4ug/m3.

@cairlondon

Let’s talk about the Lizzy line for a minute 🟣 If you’re travelling through zones 1-3, opting for the elizabeth line could be a very easy way to reduce your air pollution exposure. So why is it less polluted? 🚊 new fancy trains! 🚆 platform depths aren’t as low ☁️ better ventilation If you double this up with a mask, you are good to go! #londonlife #londontravel #londonunderground #tube #commuting #ecowarrior #airpollutionsucks #airpollutionawareness #thecityoflondon #citytravel #sustentavel #goodpart #iglondoner #iglondon #igreels #londondiaries #londonstreets #londonlover #londonbylondoners #backtotheoffice #breathelondon #bigcitylife #citygram #londongram #tubestation #sustainablecities #cleancity #londonstreetlife #londonthecity #citytravel #londontube

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Still, that makes Lizzy the least polluted line:

@cairlondon

Lizzy for the win #CapCut

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Newsflash: Oxford Circus is a nightmare

Excuse me, eight times above the UK’s recommended safe limit for air pollution? I don’t need to shop that bad.

@cairlondon

Oxford Circus underground station Vs Carnaby Street 👜 One of Londoners biggest high streets for shopping, but also a hot spot for air pollution. We’re all aware of above ground pollution, but have you considered how bad it is underground? The London Underground exposes up to 8x above the @who recommended safe limit, which can have long term impacts on our physical health. So how can you ensure you’re travelling safely, but still using the cheapest & environmentally impactful mode of transport around the city? Wear a mask & follow @cairlondon #london #oxfordcircus #transportforlondon #airpollution #particlematter #who #kcl #kingscollegelondon #loughboroughuniversity #tube #tfl #education #pollution #climatechange #saveourplanet #health #fitness #environment #sustainablity #shopping #entrepreneur #startup #research #imperialcollegelondon #londonlife #london🇬🇧 #city #morningmotivation #cop26

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Avoid the Jubilee line between Finchley Road and Baker Street

Need I say more?

@cairlondon

I went out with an air pollution monitor & was horrified to see the number increase to the point of “hazardous” whilst going underground into the deeper tunnels of the jubilee line. I knew it was bad - but this is something 1 million people are travelling on every single day with an average commute time of 60 minutes. Until we release a mobile app that can help you select lower polluted routes, we strongly suggest that you continue to wear a mask 😷 Follow us to learn more about the problem & how you can travel around London in a safer way. #londonlife #londontravel #londonunderground #tube #commuting #ecowarrior #airpollutionsucks #airpollutionawareness #thecityoflondon #citytravel #sustentavel #goodpart #iglondoner #iglondon #igreels #londondiaries #londonstreets #londonlover #londonbylondoners #backtotheoffice #breathelondon #bigcitylife #citygram #londongram #tubestation #sustainablecities #cleancity #londonstreetlife #londonthecity #citytravel #londontube

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Battersea Power Station is unhealthy, but better than the rest of the Northern line

Given that it’s home to the Northern line, one of the most polluted lines on the tube, Battersea Power Station’s air pollution is not too bad. Or at least, it’s significantly lower than any other journey along the line.

@cairlondon

Battersea power station! I went to see if this new station lived up to the hype! Given that it’s home to the northern line, one of the most polluted lines on the tube - I wanted to check how polluted this station was. Result : it’s significantly lower than any other journey along the northern line! The station itself is better ventilated, isn’t as deep of a platform & is still new in comparison to the older stations that have been around for over 100 years! It felt almost like going back in time going into Kennington onwards - comment below if you’ve noticed it too. #londonlife #londontravel #londonunderground #tube #commuting #ecowarrior #airpollutionsucks #airpollutionawareness #thecityoflondon #citytravel #sustentavel #goodpart #iglondoner #iglondon #igreels #londondiaries #londonstreets #londonlover #londonbylondoners #backtotheoffice #breathelondon #bigcitylife #citygram #londongram #tubestation #sustainablecities #cleancity #londonstreetlife #londonthecity #citytravel #londontube

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Warren Street’s a big no-no

It’s home to two of the most polluted underground lines, and is within close walking distance to both Euston and Euston Square stations. As you can see in the clip below, we have two very high PM2.5 readings across both the Victoria and Northern line platforms.

@cairlondon

Warren Street 🚆 I picked this station because it’s home to two of the most polluted underground lines, & is within close walking distance to both Euston & Euston Square stations! As you can see, we have two very high PM2.5 readings across both the Victoria & Northern line platforms. Now obviously this is not always entirely feasible depending on your destination, but if you can reduce the amount of time spent on the these Underground lines by switching to nearby stations with less depth, you can significantly reduce your air pollution exposure. #london #warrenstreet #transportforlondon #airpollution #particlematter #who #tube #tfl #education #pollution #climatechange #saveourplanet #health #fitness #environment #sustainablity #shopping #entrepreneur #startup #research #imperialcollegelondon #londonlife #london🇬🇧 #city #morningmotivation #cop26

♬ original sound - CAIR London

The Metropolitan line’s air pollution is pretty moderate

Moderate air pollution is almost a win compared to what we’ve seen so far.

@cairlondon

Shoutout to the 4 people 😂❤️ #airpollution #londonstartup

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Holborn’s just as toxic as your ex

@cairlondon

Holborn central line! #londonlife

♬ original sound - CAIR London

The Victoria line takes the crown for highest readings Beri has seen

Stockwell station’s Victoria line platform is the most polluted station on the tube map, with a shocking exposure of 639ug/m3, which is 25 times higher than the recommended exposure of 25ug/m3.

@cairlondon

Vicky gets a bad rap on the London Underground pollution wise unfortunately holding some of the highest readings I've seen across the network - she certainly takes the crown 👑 One of the worst polluted lines to PM2.5 on the London Underground being 6x above the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended safe limit. Stockwell station’s Victoria line platform is the most polluted station on the tube map, with a shocking exposure of 639ug/m3 which is 25 times higher than the EU recommended exposure of 25ug/m3. Is this your regular tube line? Comment below so we can provide information on your route ‼️

♬ original sound - CAIR London

Bonus videos, from ghost-hunting to exposing those across the pond

@cairlondon

👻 You certainly do get a few looks for a couple of seconds, but the ultimate goal of providing education for your audience/users is worth the potential embarrassment - always. Don’t let the fear of others judging you, stop you from doing the work you could be doing to promote yourself or your business. Get out there & look/feel stupid! #startupbusiness #londonstartup #airpollutionawareness #airpollutionsucks #netzero #selfemployed #embarrassing #londonbylondoners #vloggerlife #smallbusinessuk #smallbusinessowner #smallbusiness #womeninbusiness #femaleentrepreneur #thisgirlcan #airpollutionawareness #airpollutionsolution

♬ original sound - CAIR London
@cairlondon

I’m sure everyone who ventures into the world of being a start up or having to work for yourself has a fear of looking stupid. Having to talk to a camera in public, interview strangers, or in my case - walk around with a monitor taking videos. I actually got asked if I was looking for ghosts 😂 👻

♬ original sound - CAIR London
@cairlondon

So research has come to light this week causing alarm bells about the London Underground’s air pollution exposure & how metallic particles may be in our blood stream from frequent use. As alarming as this is, we are still not the most polluted underground system in the world - we are second! New York’s subway system had an average fine particle concentration of 548 micrograms of cubic meter of air, making it the most polluted. Next time you visit the big apple, be sure to pack a mask! 😷 🍏 #newyork #newyorksubway #airpollutionawareness #airpollutionsucks #bloombergnews #bbcnews #londonunderground #londonbylondoners #tubestrikes #globalpollution #airpollutioncontrol #airpollutionsolution #bigapple🍎 #newyorklife #newyorkcommunity

♬ original sound - CAIR London

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