With much of England, Wales, and Ireland experiencing moderate to high levels of air pollution, it’s time to take a serious look at how we can minimise the impact that poor air quality has on us. An estimated 29,000 people a year die in the UK alone from the long-term effects of air pollution. Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, the head of Air Pollution and Climate Change at Public Health England, says “measures that significantly reduce particulate air pollution or cut exposure would be regarded as important public health initiatives.”
C-Tech Innovation has been working on the creation of a real-time network of pollution sensors in urban environments that are integrated with the traffic management system. By installing static sensors in pollution hotspots as well mobile sensors on buses, the system will generate data that can be used to manage traffic levels (for example by controlling traffic lights to avoid queuing), to inform future pollution control decisions, and to let the public know about conditions in their city so people can plan journeys or exercise for times of day when the air quality is better.
Taking the lead on air quality for C-Tech Innovation is Dr Hannah Newton, who says that “air quality data in urban environments is often only available after the fact. This historical information is important for identifying trends and making policy, but if you want to mitigate problems as they happen you need real-time data. Our new proposal would make this data available instantly to everyone, and could be used to reduce the impact of air pollution and even the air pollution itself in our communities.”
By combining measurements of key pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone, with data on particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, PM1) we can build an accurate picture of the risks associated with the air in a given area at a certain point in time. The other side of the equation is producing accurate and easily understandable interfaces for this data, so that everyone can make informed decisions to reduce the effect of poor air quality.