Community groups receive free air sensors to monitor and tackle local pollution

The second round of London community groups to receive free sensors to monitor and tackle local air pollution have been announced.

As part of the Breathe London Community Programme, thirty local groups will be empowered to measure air quality, with assistance from Imperial College London researchers, to advance actions to reduce air pollution within their communities.

“The Breathe London Network is playing an important role in empowering communities to measure air pollution in their local areas and campaign for action.” Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced today the next round of thirty community groups to receive free air quality sensors awarded as part of the Breathe London Community Programme, with 11 of the sensors going to groups in outer London boroughs. The initiative – having now awarded 40 sensors to 40 community groups since 2021– empowers?communities across London living in areas impacted by poor air quality and with limited green spaces to track their exposure to harmful pollution and raise awareness of the importance of clean air. Poor air quality has been shown to have many health impacts including increased risk of dementia, lung cancer and low birth weight. It can also stunt children’s lungs and worsen chronic illnesses such as asthma.

The project, which is supported by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies, working with researchers at Imperial College London, aims to reach vulnerable groups including low-income populations and Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. It is part of the wider Breathe London Network which the Mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies have invested in. The network is now monitoring at almost 350 locations across London, prioritising schools, hospitals and locations chosen by community groups, along with cultural institutions and museums.

Earlier this year, the first batch of sensors were provided to ten community groups across the capital, empowering them to choose where they monitor local air pollution so they can take steps to reduce it. The data from all the sensors is available in near real time, for all Londoners to see, free on the Breathe London website.

Now, in the second phase of the project, all 30 participating community groups will receive support from Imperial’s Environmental Research Group to help analyse the data, providing them and Londoners with access to real time air quality data, including measurements of small particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are harmful to health.[1] The groups receiving the free sensors range from parents’ groups and residents’ associations to GP practices and schools.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Air pollution is a matter of life and death, leading to thousands of Londoners a year dying prematurely and developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with children in our city growing up with stunted lungs.

“I have made clear my determination to clean up London’s filthy air, which is why I recently announced the expansion of the ULEZ London-wide, so five million more Londoners can breathe cleaner air.

“This project has already had a significant local impact, helping Londoners to actively monitor pollution levels in their area. By providing even more community groups with these sensors, we are encouraging more groups to apply for them.” Dr Ben Barratt School of Public Health at Imperial College London

“Monitoring air pollution is crucial to understanding the risk that toxic air has for us all. The Breathe London Network is playing an important role in empowering communities to measure air pollution in their local areas and campaign for action. That’s why I’m delighted to be working with Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide more free air quality sensors to communities across the capital. Together, we can clean up our city’s air and build a better, greener, healthier London for everyone.”

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and these new sensors will empower communities to fight pollution by giving them the real-time data they need to do it. The communities that have suffered the most from dirty air will see the biggest benefits, and we’re glad to support the mayor’s efforts to continue improving air quality all across London.”

Dr Ben Barratt, Reader in Environmental Exposures & Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “This project has already had a significant local impact, helping Londoners to actively monitor pollution levels in their area. By providing even more community groups with these sensors, we are encouraging more groups to apply for them. We want this to continue and to empower more people across the capital to promote, raise awareness and campaign for better air quality in our cities.”

Each sensor, about the size of a shoebox, can be placed at any site in a community, such as a road, a playground, or outside a business or place of worship, to collect information about the quality of the surrounding air. The sensors measure the amount of vehicle exhaust fumes in the air, nitrogen oxides, as well as small particles (PM2.5) which can be inhaled deep into the lungs.

Louise, from London Early Years Foundation Brixton, one of the groups selected for this round, said: “We are delighted to be part of Breathe London’s initiative. We are passionate about improving air quality for children and excited that we can do this together with our local nursery, situated in the heart of Brixton. We hope this will also contribute to the Lambeth Air Quality Action Plan, supporting their push for cleaner air for residents.”

Nick, from Ealing Transition, who were also selected to receive a sensor, said: “We are concerned about the effect that congested and polluted roads have on our air quality, our health, and our planet. We hope to use the results of the Breathe sensor as a talking point in future events, and as a way to promote discussion in local schools and community organisations around the benefits of practical solutions like active travel, and how we can shift to more sustainable, less polluting modes of travel.”

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