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London has "Cleanest City Air in World"
- NHS survey claims capital is top of clean air league

LONDON has the cleanest air of any large city in the world claims a survey commissioned by the the National Health Service.

The study compared the incidence of six commonly agreed pollutants in cities with 10 million inhabitants or more. Air in the capital was found to be far and away the cleanest, with New York trailing a distant second. Bottom of the list was Cairo with three times more pollution than London. Other cities at the foot of the list included Shanghai and Mexico City.

London was once infamous for its "pea-soup" fog. The dense smog was largely the result of coal burning for heating homes and powering factories. The Clean Air Acts, introduced by Clement Attlee's post-war Labour Government, began the process of improving the city's air quality. This change has been speeded up by the switch to cleaner fuel and the general de-industrialisation of the capital as it has become the service industry centre of Europe.

Not everyone is convinced by London's claim to be the cleanest mega-city in the world. "Air pollution showed a record deterioration in 1999 yet the Government is failing to tackle the problem" said Tony Bosworth, a Friends of the Earth campaigner. However the author of the report, Professor Stephen Glaister of London's Imperial College, says that environmentalists are being "cavalier with the facts".

"Air quality standards have been set with inadequate attention to the benefits of meeting them and there is a risk that the ill-considered costs imposed by the authorities seeking to secure compliance, will greatly exceed any benefits," Glaister's report said.

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