London has exceeded its annual pollution limit - five DAYS into 2017

London covered by a haze of air pollution (Getty)

London has exceeded its annual pollution limit for 2017 – just five days into the new year.

Figures show that legal air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide for the whole of the year were broken by January 5.

European Union rules demand that maximum hourly concentrations of nitrogen dioxide – which can cause severe health problems – mostly caused by road traffic in towns and cities, are not exceeded for more than 18 hours a year.

But by 9pm on Thursday,monitors from the London Air project from King’s College, showed that the rules had been breached for the pollutant, which is linked to heart and lung problems and even early deaths.

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Specifically, it pinpointed Brixton Road in Lambeth as the first place to exceed the limits.

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan says pollution was a “public health emergency”.

Putney High Street earlier this week ( Elizabeth Dalziel/Greenpeace)

“I want London to be a world leader in how we respond to the challenge,” he told Metro.

London is far from alone among major cities in dealing with air pollution.

Last month Paris made public transport temporarily free in an attempt to tackle high levels of pollution.