As part of the Breathe London Community Programme, thirty local groups will be empowered to measure air quality, with assistance from Imperial College London researchers, to advance actions to reduce air pollution within their communities.
London, United Kingdom — The Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced today the next round of thirty community groups to receive free air quality sensors awarded as part of the Breathe London Community Programme, with 11 of the sensors going to groups in outer London boroughs. The initiative – having now awarded 40 sensors to 40 community groups since 2021– empowers communities across London living in areas impacted by poor air quality and with limited green spaces to track their exposure to harmful pollution and raise awareness of the importance of clean air. Poor air quality has been shown to have many health impacts including increased risk of dementia, lung cancer and low birth weight. It can also stunt children’s lungs and worsen chronic illnesses such as asthma.
The project, which is supported by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies, working with researchers at Imperial College London, aims to reach vulnerable groups including low-income populations and Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. It is part of the wider Breathe London Network which the Mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies have invested in. The network is now monitoring at almost 350 locations across London, prioritising schools, hospitals and locations chosen by community groups, along with cultural institutions and museums.
Earlier this year, the first batch of sensors were provided to ten community groups across the capital, empowering them to choose where they monitor local air pollution so they can take steps to reduce it. The data from all the sensors is available in near real time, for all Londoners to see, free on the Breathe London website.
Now, in the second phase of the project, all 30 participating community groups will receive support from Imperial’s Environmental Research Group to help analyse the data, providing them and Londoners with access to real time air quality data, including measurements of small particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are harmful to health. The groups receiving the free sensors range from parents’ groups and residents’ associations to GP practices and schools.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Air pollution is a matter of life and death, leading to thousands of Londoners a year dying prematurely and developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with children in our city growing up with stunted lungs.
I have made clear my determination to clean up London’s filthy air, which is why I recently announced the expansion of the ULEZ London-wide, so five million more Londoners can breather cleaner air.
Monitoring air pollution is crucial to understanding the risk that toxic air has for us all. The Breathe London Network is playing an important role in empowering communities to measure air pollution in their local areas and campaign for action. That’s why I’m delighted to be working with Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide more free air quality sensors to communities across the capital. Together, we can clean up our city’s air and build a better, greener, healthier London for everyone.”
Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and these new sensors will empower communities to fight pollution by giving them the real-time data they need to do it. The communities that have suffered the most from dirty air will see the biggest benefits, and we’re glad to support the mayor’s efforts to continue improving air quality all across London.”
Dr. Ben Barratt, Reader in Environmental Exposures & Public Health at Imperial College London said: “This project has already had a significant local impact, helping Londoners to actively monitor pollution levels in their area. By providing even more community groups with these sensors, we are encouraging more groups to apply for them. We want this to continue and to empower more people across the capital to promote, raise awareness and campaign for better air quality in our cities.”
Each sensor, about the size of a shoebox, can be placed at any site in a community, such as a road, a playground, or outside a business, place of worship, to collect information about the quality of the surrounding air. The sensors measure the amount of vehicle exhaust fumes in the air, nitrogen oxides, as well as small particles (PM2.5) which can be inhaled deep into the lungs.
Louise, from London Early Years Foundation Brixton, one of the groups selected for this round, said: “We are delighted to be part of Breathe London’s initiative. We are passionate about improving air quality for children and excited that we can do this together with our local nursery, situated in the heart of Brixton. We hope this will also contribute to the Lambeth Air Quality Action Plan, supporting their push for cleaner air for residents.”
Nick, from Ealing Transition, who were also selected to receive a sensor, said: “We are concerned about the effect that congested and polluted roads have on our air quality, our health, and our planet. We hope to use the results of the Breathe sensor as a talking point in future events, and as a way to promote discussion in local schools and community organisations around the benefits of practical solutions like active travel, and how we can shift to more sustainable, less polluting modes of travel.”
The Breathe London Network is supported by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies and is managed by the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London. For more information about the project, please visit: breathelondon.org
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 Poor air quality has been shown to stunt the growth of children’s lungs and worsens chronic illnesses such as asthma, lung and heart disease. A study by Imperial’s Environmental Research Group, commissioned by City Hall via Imperial Projects, found that air quality policies and wider improvements in air pollution will increase the average life expectancy of a child born in London in 2013 by six months.
Through the Breathe London project, air quality sensors have already been provided to some community groups and boroughs free of charge to help people monitor air quality in their local area, to measure the impact of existing schemes to improve air quality, and to help lobby for action in areas with high levels of toxic pollution.
In addition to providing the sensors to communities, the Imperial team will assess the localisation, provide full technical support, monitor the data, and organise meetups.
About Breathe London:
Following a pilot generously supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Clean Air Fund, the Mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies are investing a combined 202 air quality sensors prioritising schools, hospitals and locations chosen by community groups, along with cultural institutions and museums. These sensors are part of the wider Breathe London Network, which currently consists of 360 sensors and is expected to continue to expand in the future. The sensor network, data analysis and website are managed through Imperial Projects by scientists from the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.
The Breathe London Community Programme gives local community groups and Londoners the opportunity to apply for free air quality sensors. It is aimed at vulnerable communities and areas that have poor air quality, limited green space or high deprivation.
Community groups were invited to apply for the first 10 of 60 free sensors in October 2021.Those selected met the criteria defined by an independent advisory panel of experts from the air pollution and health sectors, as well as charities and community groups.
Each of the successful community groups has pledged to measure air pollution, raise awareness or make interventions within their own local community.
Real-time, user-friendly air quality data is available on the Breathe London website: breathelondon.org
About Imperial College London:
Imperial College London is a global top ten university with a world-class reputation. The College’s 22,000 students and 8,000 staff are working to solve the biggest challenges in science, medicine, engineering and business.
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 found that it has a greater proportion of world-leading research than any other UK university, it was named University of the Year 2022 according to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, University of the Year for Student Experience 2022 by the Good University Guide, and awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its COVID-19 response.
About the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London:
The Environmental Research Group is part of Imperial’s School of Public Health and is a leading provider of air quality information and research in the UK, combining air pollution science, toxicology and epidemiology to determine the impacts of air pollution on health and the role specific pollutants play in causing disease and deaths. They work closely with those responsible for air quality management supporting policies and actions to minimise the impact of air pollution on health and established the London Air Quality Network – and Breathe London Programme – which continuously monitors air pollution levels at sites across London.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Global Clean Air Program:
Bloomberg Philanthropies leads the world’s most ambitious clean air effort that aims to improve air quality through support for pilot projects in cities, as well as partnerships with national governments and organizations. This includes initiatives in Brussels, Jakarta, London, Milan, Paris, Warsaw, and other governments around the world.
About the GLA:
The GLA is governed by the Mayor of London, currently Sadiq Khan, and the London Assembly. It provides citywide leadership and creates policies to improve London for all.
Marshall Cohen, Bloomberg Philanthropies, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-646-819-2611
Sarah Whyte, Greater London Authority, Sarah.Whyte@london.gov.uk, 07825 521 697
Conrad Duncan, Imperial College London, email@example.com, +44 (0)20 7594 6860, Out-of-hours duty media officer: +44 (0) 7803 886 248