London's air quality data to get more accurate thanks to new monitors

Thanks to new funding, London will get new air quality monitors as part of the Breathe London network.

Aerial shot of London showing Tower Bridge and the River Thames
Credit: Unsplash

As the UK's capital, London is a busy, densely-populated city. The area has a long history, stretching back thousands of years. It's no surprise, then, that the city's layout is complex and not designed for high volumes of motor traffic.

Consequently, traffic jams are commonplace, high-polluting vehicles take routes through and around tightly packed spaces, and pavements and pedestrian spaces have become increasingly hard to navigate.

As a result, London is an extremely polluted city. This causes immense difficulties for many with medical conditions like asthma and is detrimental for those without long-term conditions. There's also increasing evidence that children can be permanently harmed by exposure to pollutants, and a recent legal ruling conceded that exposure to air pollution could be a cause of death.

As part of the Breathe London network, the Mayor of London, alongside Imperial College London and Bloomberg Philanthropies, has provided funding to install 100 new air quality monitors around the capital at high-priority locations like schools and hospitals.

These will add to the data gathered by existing air quality monitoring stations around London. The new devices provided by Clarity Movement Co. are significantly less expensive than current monitors, which are designed to ensure legal compliance.

Notably, the service will be available to charities and community organisations for a discounted rate, including additional monitor installations at their chosen location. Those who already keep tabs on the capital's air quality might initially be curious why there's a new service planned when the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) already exists, fulfilling almost the same function.

As Breathe London notes in its FAQs, the LAQN is primarily aimed at regulatory commitments, local councils and businesses operate the sensors, and the units are calibrated to a high degree of accuracy for legal compliance. Breathe London sensors are proposed for citizens, residents, and community groups. The sensors are cheaper, easier to operate, and don't need to be calibrated to a high degree of accuracy.

This allows an affordable and more inclusive way to monitor local air conditions without overburdening Breathe London or its users. The data obtained through Breathe London is combined with the LAQN measurements to offer a comprehensive overview of London's air quality.

These fixed position sensors are ideal for monitor high-risk or high-traffic areas but aren't well-suited for tracking individual exposure. For that, you'd need to invest in a personal air quality monitor like the Plume Labs Flow 2.