'We should all take air pollution into account when travelling'
Francis Wilkinson, Highgate Society
- Credit: William Britain
Air quality sensors in Camden will help us to understand more about air particles and pollution where we live and work.
Air pollution is the fourth biggest risk factor for early deaths worldwide. Even a modest annual estimate of 6.7 million deaths is greater than those from Covid in the whole two years of the pandemic.
In London, estimates of premature deaths from air pollution vary between 4,000 and 8,000 a year. In 2020, Ella Kissi-Debrah, living near the South Circular and severely asthmatic, was found to have died from air pollution. Her mother’s campaign for cleaner air in London is well known. The air you breathe is usually above the WHO safe level and harms everyone, not just those with asthma.
In 2001, due to dangerous levels of particulates in the air, Camden designated the whole borough an "air quality management area". So, what are the risks for you where you live, work and travel, and what can you do to reduce these risks?
Camden residents will soon have the means to make such decisions. The Camden Clean Air Initiative has put up 250 air quality sensors in streets across the borough. Such a dense network is a world first. These will provide real-time information about air quality with data from all sensors available on your smartphone, so that you can decide which route to take to avoid the worst pollution.
How might this help? On March 16 sand arrived in London from the Sahara. That sand included a lot of tiny particles which perhaps increased pollution levels by four or five times above the norm near your home. If you were thinking of going for a walk that day, then the information provided by the Camden Clean Air sensors might have changed your mind. And air pollution varies significantly from day to day – even without Saharan sand – on a bad day levels can be double or even triple those on a good day.
Pollution is worse near busy routes, congested roads and on hilly ascents, like many round Hampstead and Highgate, where engines must work harder, increasing vehicle emissions. These sensors should help you decide which route will avoid the most polluted roads.
The Highgate Society has invited Georgina McGivern of Camden’s Clean Air initiative and Marc Ottolini of Airlabs, who provided the sensors, to speak at a free event open to all and also available online on April 20 at 7pm: highgatesociety.com/camden-clean-air-initiative/
- 1 Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Street parties and road closures in Haringey
- 2 Five jailed after 'cold blooded' murder of Enfield father
- 3 Revealed: Your favourite fish and chip shop in north London
- 4 Crouch End pub ransacked and charity money stolen
- 5 Two more charged in connection with Olsi Kuka killing in Barnet
- 6 Man jailed for membership of banned neo-Nazi group National Action
- 7 Royal beacon in Golders Hill shines light for Queen
- 8 Belsize Park phone box transformed into art gallery by prep school pupils
- 9 Gold and silver for a Platinum Jubilee party
- 10 Home of the week: Hampstead flat with garden for £1.25m
Francis Wilkinson is secretary of the Highgate Society and lead on air pollution.