Media Attention Needed for Air Quality Monitoring
Mar 31 2015 Read 1078 Times
Air quality is rarely given the media attention that it deserves, not least because air pollution is responsible for more premature deaths than obesity, alcohol and road accidents.
Many of the recent initiatives to raise awareness of air quality have involved the use of portable and transportable air quality monitors to measure the air that people are breathing, rather than the air near a reference monitoring station. This has provided a fascinating insight into the ways in which people can affect their own personal exposure to air pollution.
In the past air quality data has been of limited use to the public because it is not localised; if the air quality in London is known to be poor on a specific day, only a minority of people (asthmatics, cardiovascular patients etc.) are likely to alter their daily activities. However, imagine the effects if you knew the average air quality on your various routes to work, or at your local schools or even in the areas in which you are thinking of buying a house? Recent developments in sensor and communications technology will make that possible, and they will be on display at AQE 2015, the Air Quality and Emissions Show that will take place in Telford on 22nd and 23rd April – see www.AQEShow.com.
Air Monitors (UK) has supplied portable air quality monitoring instruments for some of the work that has been publicised recently. For example, Dr Ben Barratt from the Analytical & Environmental Sciences Department of King’s College London appeared on the BBC’s One Show with a micro aethalometer for measuring black carbon during the air pollution that occurred in April. Air quality was also the subject of a BBC programme in the ‘Costing the Earth’ series in which Dr Barratt fitted a group of MPs with micro aethalometers and measured their exposure to pollution over a working day.
In July last year, Vivienne Westwood and Duffy joined a crowd of cyclists on the ‘Cleaner Air Bike Ride’ that took place during the Urban Outdoor Festival in Camden to raise awareness of issues such as air quality. ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, had fitted one of the bikes with an ‘AQMesh’ air quality monitor so that live readings could be viewed during the festival. Andrea Lee from ClientEarth’s Healthy Air Campaign rode the bike and collected the air quality data. “NO2 levels declined overnight, but increased sharply as the morning traffic started,” she reported. “However, it is interesting to note that pollutant levels dropped significantly as the cyclists travelled away from the traffic through Hampstead Heath.”
Duffy was particularly interested in the development of localised air quality data. “It’s over 60 years since the Great Smog of London which killed an extra 4,000 people, so it’s astonishing that a similar number of people still die prematurely every year in London as a result of air pollution,” she said.
If air quality is to become a high priority in the media, it is essential that people are provided with localised data on the air that they breathe – on the street where they live, the road that they take to work and the places that they walk and exercise.
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