Greater London Authority Installs New Air Quality Monitoring Network in Fight Against Toxic Air

by CCAC secretariat - 28 January, 2021
Breathe London’s new air pollution sensor network is a blueprint for how global governments, cities & communities can cost-effectively modernize air quality monitoring infrastructure to drive implementation of solutions for clean air

As part of London’s green recovery from COVID-19, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, will install 100 air quality sensors at hospitals, schools, and other priority locations to monitor and reduce air pollution.

The initiative is part of the city’s Breathe London campaign in partnership with Imperial College London and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Clarity Movement Co., a global sensing and data analytics company, will install the monitors.

Mayor Khan said it was a major milestone for the Breathe London sensor network. Increased monitoring would help Londoners see the levels of pollution in their local area, improve awareness, and help people reduce their exposure. It would also help City Hall, Transport for London and the boroughs better target air quality improvement efforts.  

“As we face up to the current climate emergency, I hope the success of this scheme will act as a blueprint for cities around the world to battle their own toxic air emergencies,” Mr. Khan said.

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A monitor being installed at Charing Cross Hospital, London.

“The onset of coronavirus - a vicious serious disease - has reminded us how important our work to clean up London's toxic air is. It requires bold and innovative action and we can't win this battle alone. This is why I have consistently demanded that the Government match my ambitions and improve the new Environment Bill to include legally binding World Health Organization recommended limits to be achieved by 2030, and to give cities the powers and funding we need to consign air pollution to the history books once and for all.”

London joined the BreatheLife Network in October 2017, to raise awareness about health and climate impacts from high levels of air pollution.  The city is determined to get pollution levels within WHO guidelines by 2030.

London plays a leadership role within the BreatheLife Network and for cities around the world by providing concrete examples for cities to follow as it works to become a zero carbon city. To implement these measures and achieve real change, data is needed to guide decision-making and implementation.

“Air pollution is often described as an invisible killer. To optimize solutions it is imperative local communities are empowered with actionable data in real-time,” said Dr. Gary Fuller, air pollution scientist, Imperial College London. “The Breathe London project makes London the first city to holistically integrate low-cost sensors with existing air quality infrastructure. We are excited to be partnering with Clarity who will provide hardware and software to measure local air quality that is significantly lower cost and far easier to deploy than traditional equipment. A key strength of the Breathe London project will be at our new data centre, at White City in west London, where traditional and new lower-cost sensor data will be combined to provide Londoners with some of the highest-resolution air quality data in the world.”

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Monitors installed next to atheltic fields.

Installation of the new network of Clarity air sensors will be carried out in tranches starting in January 2021, with full deployment of the publicly-funded sensors expected by June 2021. The network will continue to expand through community funding initiatives, coordinated by Imperial College London.

“We are proud to partner with Breathe London to offer affordable air monitoring technology to London communities, and we are confident that this project represents a blueprint for governments across the globe who are working to pursue their own sustainability initiatives amidst rising air pollution and ongoing budget challenges,” said Meiling Gao, COO, Clarity Movement Co. “Clarity can be the technology partner to help governments worldwide push forward despite budgetary constraints and deploy modern air quality monitoring networks that serve and empower the local community.”

As government agencies across the world face budget cuts due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the coming years, air quality leaders will need to find ways to stretch their monitoring budgets.

“Air pollution and climate change conditions are reaching criticality worldwide at the same time that environmental agencies face budget constraints, and traditional air sensing technologies have reached a crossroads,” Gao also said. “Given the current conditions, we believe that the future of air quality monitoring networks, Air Quality Monitoring 2.0, will consist of installing low-cost and highly-scalable sensors to complement existing regulatory monitoring equipment and fill in the spatial and temporal gaps that exist with the traditional networks. These technologically advanced sensors are significantly less expensive than traditional technologies and will be key to making air quality monitoring globally accessible by removing the steep up-front and operational costs that come with traditional monitoring networks.”