Mayor launches air quality monitoring backpacks trial

Mayor launches air quality monitoring backpacks trial to track pollution levels on children’s journeys to school

Published: Friday, 22nd March 2019

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan

In a new scheme launched by the Mayor of London, primary school pupils will carry special backpacks with state-of-the-art air quality sensors on their journey to and from school to help monitor the levels of toxic air young Londoners are exposed to. 

250 pupils from five London primary schools in Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey and Hammersmith and Fulham will take part in the project, wearing specially adapted backpacks to and from school for a week.

Weighing just over 1kg, the sensors fit into lightweight bags and measure particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. The children will use the backpacks like a normal bag (the monitor takes up one pocket, leaving plenty of room for school equipment), allowing the monitors to record pollutant levels on each child’s journey to school and throughout the school day.

The data from this study will allow King’s scientists to analyse at which point of their journey to school (or which part of their school day) children are exposed to the most pollution. They will also be able to compare the exposure of children who have similar journeys but take different routes and travel modes and then make recommendations of how children can reduce their exposure in future.

The wearable sensors are the latest stage of the Breathe London project to create the most comprehensive air quality monitoring network of its kind in the world. Breathe London, which includes more than 100 fixed monitors and the deployment of air quality monitoring cars on the streets of London, is being delivered by a consortium led by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and mostly funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

The project itself was devised by City Hall and C40 Cities – the leading global alliance of cities committed to addressing climate change. Once this approach and technology has been proven in London, the goal is to see it introduced in cities around the world. London is a lead city, alongside Bengalaru, of the C40 Air Quality Network announced during the Mayor’s visit to India in December 2017.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “It remains a shameful fact that London's toxic air is harming the lung growth and health of our young children, and we are determined to do everything in our power to protect them.

“An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action to protect future generations and ensure our children breathe cleaner, healthier air. I’m proud that we’re able to launch world-leading studies like this which will help us find new ways to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air.

“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.”

Councillor Hanif Khan, Cabinet Member for Transport at Hounslow Council said:

“This is another excellent initiative by the Mayor of London. By monitoring the air that children breathe on the journey to and from school, we will gain a better understanding of which pollutants are the most harmful and where they are coming from, helping us to support effective improvements in public health.

“Improving our air quality is a key focus for Hounslow and we are implementing a large number of initiatives to improve our air quality for the benefit of all, as outlined in our new Air Quality Action Plan.”

We recommend that everyone signs up to our free airTEXT service, which sends alerts via text message or email. It provides air quality, UV, pollen and temperature forecasts for the Borough, warns if high pollution is forecast, and provides health advice.

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Drivers can use TFL’s simple online checking tool to see if their vehicle will meet ULEZ’s tough, new emissions standards.  



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