National Physical Laboratory

London's Mayor launches world's largest air quality monitoring network, in London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today launched the world's most advanced and comprehensive network of air quality monitors to help investigate and improve London's toxic air. The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is working alongside a team of experts, as part of the initiative, to provide measurement traceability.

Google cars

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.

NPL forms part of Breathe London's consortium of experts which includes: the Environmental Defense Fund Europe; Google Earth Outreach; Air Monitors Ltd; Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants; the University of Cambridge; and King's College London.

The Environmental Defense Fund Europe and Google Earth Outreach 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.

NPL's role is to carry out calibrations for the high-accuracy instruments inside the Google cars to confirm the accuracy of the measurements collected. We will also provide the base for the cars, and run co-location studies to ensure that the Breathe London sensors are accurate.

The data collected will help to build up a detailed picture of London's air quality over the course of a year and identify areas of toxic air that the network of fixed monitors might miss. Meanwhile, 100 state-of-the-art fixed sensor pods will be mounted on lampposts and buildings, close to known air quality hotspots and sensitive locations such as schools and nurseries.

Data will be available for the public to view on an interactive online map on the Breathe London website. 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 Mayor launched the project at Charlotte Sharman Primary School in Southwark. As well as hosting one of the new fixed monitors, 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 project itself was devised by City Hall and the C40 Cities. The Breathe London project is funded by the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

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."

Dr Nick Martin, Senior Research Scientist in the Emissions and Atmospheric Metrology Group at NPL, said:

"Through the Breathe London project, we'll gain new insights into tracking pollution levels across London, which in turn will enable effective methods to tackle pollutions sources in the future.

"We are currently seeing a revolution in air quality monitoring, using low cost sensors. NPL is working to develop a standard protocol to validate their performance and reduce barriers to enter the market. This work positions NPL at the heart of these new developments, thereby assisting UK industry, which is at the leading-edge of this technology."

Find out more about NPL's work to understand and mitigate air pollution

Last Updated: 15 Jan 2019
Created: 15 Jan 2019

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