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London Mayor launches world’s most sophisticated air quality monitoring network

Published: 30 January 2019 - Sarah Mead

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched the world’s most advanced and comprehensive network of air quality monitors to help investigate and improve London’s toxic air.

‘Breathe London’ will use a range of cutting-edge fixed and mobile sensors to build up a real-time, hyperlocal image of London’s air quality. The data these monitors collect from across the capital will provide an unprecedented level of detail about London’s air quality crisis and deliver new insight into the sources of pollution.

The technology company Air Monitors designed and installed the network of AQMesh air quality monitoring pods, as well as the air quality analysers that were specially adapted to operate inside the Google Street View cars. Air Monitors will also be responsible for the ongoing service and maintenance of all of the project’s air quality monitoring equipment. During the launch, Air Monitors Managing Director Jim Mills showed the Mayor how simple it will be to access real-time air quality data using any web-enabled device.

To deliver this world-leading project, the Mayor has collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund Europe and Google Earth Outreach, who have equipped two of their iconic Street View cars with air quality sensors. These will take pollution readings approximately every 30 metres at tens of thousands of locations whilst they travel through London’s streets, building up a picture of London’s air quality over the course of a year and identifying areas of toxic air that the network of fixed monitors might miss. Meanwhile, 100 state-of-the-art fixed AQMesh pods will be mounted on lampposts and buildings close to known air quality hotspots and sensitive locations such as schools and nurseries.

The data generated by this new network will be available for the public to view on an interactive online map on the Breathe London website (www.breathelondon.org). The map will show Londoners the condition of the air they are currently breathing and allow more accurate pollution forecasting.

This project builds on London’s existing air quality monitoring network, operated by the boroughs and King’s College London. With more than 100 fixed monitors in use London’s existing air quality monitoring network is already the most advanced of any world city. The Breathe London project augments this by providing the ability to identify hotspots all over the city wherever they might be.

The Breathe London project is being delivered by a consortium led by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The project itself was devised by City Hall and the C40 Cities –the leading global alliance of cities committed to addressing climate change. Once this approach and technology has been proven in London, the goal is to see it introduced in cities around the world.

The Mayor launched the project at Charlotte Sharman Primary School in Southwark. As well as hosting an AQMesh pod, Charlotte Sharman was also one of 50 schools involved in the Mayor’s air quality audits programme last year. The school has now received £10,000 to help implement air quality improvements, including the installation of a new green wall.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “London’s filthy air is a public health crisis that leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.

“An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action, so I’m proud that we’re leading the world in establishing this new monitoring network – allowing Londoners to see the levels of pollution at a local level. This real-time data will also help us learn more about London’s toxic air and help us to put the right policies in place to continue our clean-up efforts. As a recent Aether report demonstrated, these actions will benefit all Londoners, but particularly those living in the capital’s deprived areas. I hope the success of this scheme will act as a blueprint for cities around the world as they battle their own toxic air emergencies.

“The launch of Breathe London is just one part of my campaign to improve London’s air quality, alongside cleaning up the bus fleet, funding a scrappage scheme for micro-businesses to remove the most polluting vans and the launch of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in April. But we can’t win this battle without more help from the Government, who, as we saw from their hugely disappointing Clean Air Strategy yesterday, are still failing to take this problem seriously and offer the support London needs to tackle this public health crisis.”

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Environmental Defense Fund, Europe, Executive Director, said: “The Breathe London partnership is breaking new ground. We’re developing new scientific approaches using the latest technologies to explore London’s air quality in unprecedented detail.

“This will provide information for both the public and decision makers that can help drive better solutions to a problem that affects every Londoner. The support of Mayor Khan, C40 Cities, CIFF and all the partners has been invaluable and together we hope to advance air quality management in London, the UK and cities worldwide.”

Breathe London will be followed in April by the launch of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London, 24/7, 365 days a year.  Vehicles will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles, £100 for buses, coaches and lorries) to travel within the zone.

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 said: “The citizens of Paris, London and all the great cities of the world have a right to clean air to breathe. C40 is proud to support the efforts of Mayor Khan to better understand and map the air pollution across London.

“Cities around the world will be watching the results of this project very closely as we work together to clean the air that our citizens breathe and reduce the dangerous emissions that cause climate change.”

Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Google Earth Outreach said: “We are extremely excited to be part of the Air Quality in London project. We hope to help make air pollution information more accessible and useful, so that citizens and governments can use it to make decisions.

“Environmental air quality is an issue that affects everyone due to the potential health and environmental impacts it has. Environmental issues have long been a priority for Google which we tackle daily with several teams such as the Google Earth Outreach who have been the key driver of this project for Google.”

Sonia Medina, Executive Director for Climate Change at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation said: “Air quality affects everyone but the impacts are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable, especially children. That is why CIFF is proud to support this world-leading project, which will help reveal the extent and sources of the problem, highlighting what needs to be done and where.”

Air Monitors Managing Director Jim Mills says: “This project has combined leading edge technology to provide a unique insight into local air quality that will inform air quality strategy, but possibly more importantly it will also engage London citizens; helping them to identify pollution hot-spots and think about how they can personally help to solve local air pollution problems.”



 
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