As the Summer draws to a close, we look back at the wildfire season in the northern hemisphere.

Wildfires are dangerous, and an example of regional air pollution. Extreme heat and drought conditions have made it even worse in Europe and North America. You can see their extent on this map from NASA which shows the actively burning fires around the world.

Wildfire smoke can rise into the atmosphere in a plume and descend half a continent away, blanketing the area with choking toxic air pollution. People may not even be aware they are breathing in the fumes from a faraway forest fire, and that it’s affecting their health.

Through surveying the primary peer-reviewed research literature over the last few years, we can share with you our main findings:

  • Consistent evidence documents associations between wildfire smoke exposure and general respiratory health effects. Exacerbations of asthma, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung diseases such as emphysema, obstructive pulmonary disease and increased risk of respiratory infections are regularly reported.
  • During a wildfire in Spain, PM2.5 values were 75x higher than the WHO standard.
  • Other wildfire emissions like VOCs may cause skin and eye irritation, drowsiness, coughing and wheezing. Others like benzene may be carcinogenic.
  • A 5% increase in non-accidental mortality at a lag of 1 day was observed on days of high air pollution from bushfire smoke in Sydney.
  • Climate change is likely to increase the threat of wildfires.
  • In the US, daily pollution levels during or after wildfire in most studies exceeded U.S. EPA regulations.
  • Levels of PM10, the most frequently studied pollutant in the US and Australia, were 1.2 to 10 times higher due to wildfire smoke compared to non-fire periods and/or locations.
  • Children, the elderly, and those with underlying chronic diseases appear to be susceptible.
  • Ten years after the 1997 Indonesian fires, young males suffered decreases in lung function.
  • The economic valuation of the health impacts of wildfire emissions from across North America (from May-Sept between 2013 and 2015 and 2017-2018) was estimated per year at $410M–$1.8B for acute health impacts and $4.3B–$19B for chronic health impacts.
  • Wildfire particulate matter may be more toxic than equal doses of ambient PM2.5 – up to 10 times more harmful.
  • Recent evidence suggests that long-term exposure to PM2.5 may make the coronavirus more deadly.
  • Hospital admissions for respiratory problems, like asthma and pneumonia, rose by 10% during periods when Southern California was covered by wildfire smoke.
  • 1-in-7 US residents on the West Coast experienced at least one day of unhealthy air conditions in 2020. The smoke drifted east creating hazy skies and an oddly vibrant sun on the East Coast.
  • Particles released from burning vegetation in forest fires become more toxic over time – up to four times more toxic a day down the road.

While world leaders tackle the increasing number of fires and climate change, it’s important to make everyone aware of air pollution caused by wildfires and their effects on human health.

This study published by Stanford last week said that “Smoke pollution is particularly challenging to measure, both because it’s difficult to know which portion of PM is from smoke and because we only have pollution monitors at a limited number of locations in the US”.

This is true the world over.

At AirScape, we have the technology to show regional and street-level air quality data in real time. By making the invisible visible we can empower a generation to make informed quality-of-life decisions with reliable air quality data.

If you would like to be part of our air quality revolution to extend airscape.ai to 200 cities across the world, get in touch now.

In this episode of Always Searching, Dr. Matthew Johnson, climatologist, professor at the University of Copenhagen and entrepreneur, shares his expert opinion on the role of human behaviour and climate change. His innovative solutions can provide a better future for our planet, but everyone has a role to play to shift the direction from the destruction of the global environment which our children will inherit if we don’t act now.

Listen to the full podcast here

Here’s an excerpt from the transcription, where Matt speaks about what we’re doing at AirScape ….

MJ: One of the things that we’re doing [at AirScape] is to try to build awareness about air quality. And I think that it’s easy not to think about the atmosphere and it’s easy not to be aware … that it’s the largest environmental killer that we have today. So air pollution kills more people every year than have been killed by the COVID pandemic.

SM: That’s extraordinary.

MJ: It’s extraordinary. And now that people aren’t smoking, the leading cause of lung cancer is air pollution. And people don’t know about this. And so, part of it is you don’t see it directly. You might see it in the mountains at a distance, as you were saying, but you don’t see it in front of you.

But we’re working with low-cost sensors in order to make the invisible visible. And … we just installed 225 of these in London. And we see incredible detail in the air pollution in the city. And it could be traffic or restaurants or just the things that people do every day.

And we find that 40% of the air pollution that you have in this borough is produced within the borough.

And so the activities you do affects the air that you breathe. And that’s true everywhere. So one of the changes that we’ve seen, you used to think that you would go to China and there were scooters everywhere.

SM: Right. And bicycles.

MJ: And bicycles. Yeah. And these two-stroke engines gave out a lot of air pollution. And in the United States today, just a little moped engine would give out more air pollution than ten or 20 cars.

SM: Did not know that.

MJ: You know, it’s unfiltered. And China, they don’t have the catalyst that they have, and they really stink. And one of the things they’ve done in China is to electrify all of these little scooters. And it’s kind of fun because they’re silent, you know, you don’t hear them coming. And so it’s a bit dangerous, but definitely a positive step in terms of improving air.

SM: So we just passed a major piece of legislation in the United States. And one of the caveats is having increased expansion to more electric modes of transportation. Do you think that’s a game changer?

MJ: I think it is, definitely. And you can’t escape the air pollution that you get from vehicles, transportation and diesel and gasoline-powered. That’s true. But it won’t change the air pollution that you get from brakes and tires and road dust and these things.

SM: But how does that balance out then?

MJ: Definitely a step in the right direction. You know that some years ago, Europe made a strategic decision to favour diesel engines. And this is something that the United States, you know, most cars run on gasoline. But one consequence is that you to have more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in European cities than you have in the United States.

And I really noticed this when I go to London, for example, that you get rough in your throat, in your and your eyes are itching. And so what I really look forward to is that, you know, they have a goal of electrifying all of the vehicles in London. All the taxis will be battery-driven. And I think it’s really going to have a positive impact on the air quality.

SM: So from a pragmatic approach, if you have it electric, then you have to have charging stations every so many kilometres. And how does that work?

MJ: Yeah, it’s not really different from filling your car with gasoline.

SM: That’s true. But the truth is. Isn’t that true?

MJ: I see those everywhere over here. I’m working in Copenhagen every day. I live in Sweden. I visit London. You see, charging stations everywhere.

SM: I only see them in our parks here. I haven’t seen them very often. Okay. And then I notice a few neighbours have a few electric cars and they’ve got these, you know, concoctions trying to connect their cars to some piece of electricity connected to their house. So we definitely need to do better. And I think it’s exciting.

MJ: I think we’ll get there. I think we’ll get there. The performance of these vehicles is wonderful as well, as a driver.

SM: And when you talked about your company and having these wonderful sensors, I think you mentioned it was in England, in London. What are they going to do with it? They’re going to have the data, but how are they going to change their programs and policies?

MJ: Right. So there’s definitely an education mission at the same time because you do need to do something with the data. I would like to see this data act as a catalyst for change. And, you know, it’s like FDR said, the voters have to do it right. And if the people lead, then the politicians will follow. And I think that you can build the momentum that you need to create changes in policy if people are on board and if they’re aware of the issues.

So, by providing this data and we’re providing it all for free, you can go on the Internet and look at maps and so on. We think that we’re creating the momentum for change there. Maybe it comes from schools or from churches, or we’re working with schools and churches and hospitals and different citizen organizations. But it’s a problem for everybody, right?

I mean, so as a citizen on this planet, this is part of our environment.

SM: So getting our community activists and leaders on board. But let’s talk about our political leadership. It’s extraordinary. Again, I use that word a lot because when I think about this, how people can deny it, what’s the reason behind it and what can we do to move beyond that?

…….

Listen to the rest of this fascinating podcast to hear Matt’s views on how we combat climate change and the opposing forces at play ……

Here’s another chance to watch the film about AirScape in Camden on BBC Morning Live

  • AirScape has installed more than 225 air quality sensors across the borough of Camden, London, in partnership with Camden Council and The Camden Clean Air Initiative.
  • The fixed sensor network provides 45x more data points and refreshes 60x more regularly than existing air quality reference stations, to show a street-by-street picture of air quality in real time.
  • Data is freely available on the AirScape web platform to enable individuals, businesses and local authorities to make quality of life decisions that improve air quality for all.
  • This ground-breaking project is a blueprint for other London boroughs and cities around the world to improve the health and wellbeing of the public.

A ground-breaking street-level, real-time air quality sensor network has launched in Camden to fundamentally transform how government, businesses and the public monitor and manage air pollution in urban spaces.

The air quality specialist, AirScape, has installed more than 225 award-winning AirNode air quality sensors across the borough, in partnership with Camden Council and The Camden Clean Air Initiative.

The network provides 45x more spatial resolution and refreshes 60x more regularly than the existing network of air quality reference stations in Camden, capturing and reporting hyper-local air quality data every minute to map the issue in real time. 

AirScape aims to replicate this approach across London and in every major city around the world, to enable real action on air pollution. 

Dr Matthew Johnson, Chief Scientific Officer at AirScape, said: “Air pollution is one of the most profound issues facing humanity today. Tackling this crisis requires policy makers, businesses, and the general public to have a real-time, accurate understanding of air quality through accessible, publicly available data. 

“Through this project, AirScape is making the invisible, visible. Our air quality sensor network in Camden delivers ultra-high-definition detail of local air pollution. The network is supporting policy makers to make data-driven choices to protect the health and wellbeing of the local community, whilst giving the public the ability to make informed decisions every day to reduce their exposure to air pollution.

“Camden is a vital first location for the deployment of AirScape, and our ambition is to install networks across every major city in the world, to enable a giant leap in our ability to tackle the air pollution crisis.”

Initial data from beta testing over the past month has already revealed a number of interesting findings. On a micro level, the platform can identify daily ‘incidents’ which occur on one street but not another, and extreme pollution differences in time, shown in rush hour NO2

Findings include: 

  • Tuesday, 1st March, the day of tube strikes in London, led to high increases in rush hour NO2, as more people relied on road transport. 
  • Friday, 17th June, the hottest day of the year so far, saw unhealthy levels of Ozone across the Borough. 
  • Friday, 17th June, a large fire on Chalk Farm Road took place, which could be seen igniting and being extinguished on the AirScape platform, with a plume of harmful PM2.5 moving with the south westerly wind to the northeast (images showcasing these findings can be found in the notes to editors below). 

Local community groups are already showing interest in using the information from the platform. A local school group has used the data to conduct a lesson on air quality and local cycling groups are using the information to help choose the cleanest times and routes for cycle rides.

World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.

A recent report by the National Audit Office highlighted that the UK government is not on track to cut air pollution and is not effectively informing the public about the issue, so AirScape could be the ideal solution to meet both challenges by making detailed and impactful air pollution data available to all.

As the first local authority to adopt the AirScape network, Camden Council is leading public engagement on air quality in the UK, and the network is a blueprint for other local authorities to follow suit. The council was also the first to adopt WHO air quality standards, with a host of initiatives already in place to help realise its vision for a healthy and resilient borough.

Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a sustainable Camden said: “Reducing air pollution is absolutely vital to improving the health and well-being of everyone in Camden. The detailed data from this network will revolutionise how we can engage with our community, giving us the power to make smarter, informed decisions to tackle air pollution. 

“I’d like to thank AirScape, the Camden Clean Air Initiative, Camden’s in-house team of air quality experts and street lighting team for their sterling work in getting this network set up. Making this data freely accessible to all members of our community further demonstrates the council’s longstanding commitment to the open sharing of data in the public interest.”

The revolutionary AirScape approach has been designed to engage a range of stakeholders and the general public in this critical issue. AirScape and The Camden Clean Air Initiative are working together closely to encourage local groups, businesses, NGOs and members of the public to engage with the platform, now publicly and freely accessible at https://airscape.ai.

The data generated from the network can be used in a myriad of ways, enabling the public to choose less polluted routes from A-to-B, feeding into local traffic management policy and providing NHS Trusts and schools with information to help raise awareness of air pollution and protect vulnerable communities. The future possibilities of how the data can be used are vast and AirScape is aiming to engage with potential partners, clean air groups and councils to explore future collaboration.

Public funding to roll out an initiative of this scale to the rest of London and in cities around the world is limited, so AirScape is raising private funding and sponsorship from multiple sources – from individuals to large corporates – to accelerate change and save lives.

Jeffrey Young, CEO of The Camden Clean Air Initiative, said: “Those living, working and visiting the Borough of Camden must be protected from exposure to toxic air pollution. In order to improve air quality, we must first understand its sources – exactly what the ground-breaking AirScape project allows us to do. 

“By partnering with AirScape, The Camden Clean Air Initiative has put Camden on the map for GreenTech, giving people across the Borough the opportunity to make informed decisions on how to dramatically reduce exposure to air pollution. The AirScape project aligns directly with The Camden Clean Air Initiative’s vision to fill the Borough with real-time air quality sensors and place Camden at the forefront of London’s sustainability agenda.” 

With at least 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK due to air pollution, toxic air is a known contributor to cancer, heart disease, strokes and asthma. Causing over 20x more deaths than road traffic accidents, poor air quality costs society, businesses and our NHS services more than £15 billion a year. To reflect the increasing scientific evidence of the harm to health caused by toxic air, the WHO sharply reduced its guideline limits for air pollution last year. 

Recent research produced by the non-profit group, the Central Office of Public Interest (Copi), and Imperial College London found that more than 97% of addresses in the UK exceed WHO limits for at least one of three key pollutants, while 70% of addresses breach WHO limits for all three. 

ENDS

More information on the AirScape sensor network:

The dense network of AirNode sensor devices has been strategically designed to cover the entire borough of Camden, including areas underrepresented by the existing monitoring network and those most susceptible to air pollution – schools, transport hubs, healthcare facilities and busy intersections. Each device measures a wide range of air pollutants including airborne particulate matter and toxic gases (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3)), giving the full picture of air quality in an area. 

Devices are optimally spaced to help identify and differentiate between different sources of pollution, including whether they are localised sources, such as road traffic and wood-burning, or regional sources, such as industry. The devices are installed on lampposts, buildings and other suitable infrastructure and take measurements every minute, enabling detection of the smallest of changes in air pollutants.

The data will contribute to impactful decision making for all stakeholders interested in improving air quality in the borough, from the Council, individuals and communities to schools, offices, hospitals, retail and hospitality businesses. 

Air quality is a localised issue, with pollution levels differing significantly from street to street. Even the most advanced air quality networks currently lack a street level understanding of air quality and gaps in the data mean that communities are missing the complete picture when it comes to air quality outside their homes, schools and offices.  AirScape’s vast network has been designed to dramatically improve coverage of air quality, which is now available across the entire Borough of Camden. 

For more information, images or to speak to a spokesperson from AirScape please contact:

Max Boon max.boon@greenhouse.agency / +44 (0) 7765 325141.

Jessie Wilson jessie.wilson@greenhouse.agency / +44 (0) 7763540629

Notes to editors

1 March, the day of tube strikes in London, forcing people to use road transport.

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Unhealthy levels of Ozone were building across the Borough on Friday, 17th June, the hottest day of the year so far when it would have been advisable to stay inside.

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That same day, a large fire on Chalk Farm Road, could be seen on AirScape igniting and being extinguished, with a plume of harmful PM2.5 moving with the south westerly wind to the northeast.

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About AirScape 

AirScape is a leading pioneer in air quality monitoring solutions. 

99% of the world’s population is exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. AirScape’s mission is to empower a generation to make informed quality of life decisions with reliable air quality data.

Its international team of atmospheric chemistry scientists and sensor specialists has developed cutting-edge measurement and visualisation technology with high temporal and spatial resolution. A real-time solution for use by governments, businesses and individuals to tackle the problem of urban air pollution. 

AirScape is headquartered in London with R&D labs in Copenhagen. 

About The Camden Clear Air Initiative

The Camden Clean Air Initiative is a non-profit action group aiming to improve air quality across the Borough of Camden. By working closely with the entire community, including schools, businesses, and residents, as well as the local authority, they provide resources and support alongside their clean air projects. Their projects increase awareness and education around air pollution, and aim to introduce policy and infrastructural change, to propel Camden forward as a Borough of excellence.  

About Camden Council 

Camden was the first local authority to commit to the ambitious World Health Organization air quality standards and as part of ‘Our Camden Plan’ have committed to creating a borough in which no one suffers ill-health as a result of the air they breathe.

Information on air quality in Camden can be viewed on the Council website: https://www.camden.gov.uk/air-quality#lqxu  

Listen here

After years of deep scientific research, extensive media coverage and high-profile celebrity attention, reducing CO2 emissions to prevent climate change is deemed almost exclusively the most pressing global threat to humanity. 

Yet alongside this, another invisible threat deeply linked to our way of life has gone unnoticed. With some 4.2 billion people living in urban environments today, the health impacts of air pollution are intensifying on a global scale. Airborne pollutants lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and acute asthma. It’s predicted an additional 10 million unnecessary deaths across the globe – almost double that of COVID to date – will take place this year alone. The OECD predicts outdoor air pollution could cost 1% of global GDP, around 2.6 trillion us dollars by 2060. 

So with these significant concerns and spiralling health costs, how can we make the changes necessary to clear the air in our cities?

Welcome to Racing Green

The podcast that explores the ideas, innovations and influencers making waves in the journey towards a sustainable future for our planet. In each episode, we investigate the new challenges, ingenious solutions and the undiscovered opportunities that lie at the heart of our rapidly changing world. We aim to accelerate a new era, founded on optimism and impactful collective responsibility. 

Today we chat with Dmytro Chupryna, Sales and Business Development Director at AirLabs, to explore how the rollout of a revolutionary dense network of air quality sensors in our own local area of Camden, north London, could provide the vital data needed to ensure the future health of our cities around the globe.

Welcome Dmytro

Thank you so much for the invitation. I’m glad to be here. 

I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what, what is air pollution actually? What are the main pollutants that we look to when we’re discussing air pollution?

Air pollution is considered to be one of the biggest threats to wellbeing across the globe for millions and millions of people. And it’s considered by WHO that over 8 million people die each year because of air pollution. And it causes long-term and short-term diseases for hundreds and millions of people across the globe. So, it became a health problem, number one, and a death rate even higher than COVID of any known disease. So millions and millions of people and scientists are trying to find a solution to this problem. And we want to be part of that, and we want to help communities, help governments, help scientists to understand air pollution and tackle it.

Great. Well, you know, you are involved in this incredible project called AirScape. I wonder if you’d tell us a little bit about AirScape. 

The key problem we’ve found out, and the roots of our solution AirScape, came from long-term scientific research, led by our R&D team in Copenhagen, and led by our Chief Science Officer Matthew Johnson.

The system of air quality monitoring which currently exists in London, Camden, and also globally, refers to very dispersed reference stations. If we compare that to, for example, a situation in hospitals, where you have all the patients, and you measure only the average temperature for all the patients they have, which is nonsense. We have the same situation with air pollution. So, for example, in Camden, there are only four reference stations, dispersed kilometres away from each other. And they calculate average air pollution levels in Camden, for example, and broader in London, of course. But eventually, you’ll receive the same data on Euston Road as in Hamstead Heath, which of course doesn’t make sense.

So AirScape is a solution where we try to deploy denser networks of air pollution sensors, an average distance of 10 square metres, so we can understand the air pollution level on each particular street, in each particular corner and in many, many places around Camden. So our model provides people with real-time, street-level data on air pollution, available to everyone.

So, what are we measuring? And what, what types of pollutants are we actually measuring? 

A very wide range of pollutants exist in our world, but the key drivers of pollution in London are four components which our system is monitoring. So it’s Ozone, NO2 and two types of particulate matter, 2.5 and 10.

These are the main drivers of air pollution. Each has its own characteristics, and each of them concerns different types of diseases. And of course, all of them contribute more generally to climate change and see problems with CO2. They come from different types of human activity. Mostly, of course, from fuel from cars, construction sites, different types of businesses and activities of industry activities. So, it’s a combination of different factors. London and Camden is a very dangerous place to live. And that’s something we need to, tackle for our children, for our generations and for ourselves as well. 

So how did this idea for AirScape come about?

So the key idea takes its roots from the problems we had with different air quality monitoring projects. Because we have plenty of them across the globe and plenty of them in London, but there’s no real one data point and they use different models, which can of course create results, you know, for a particular territory, for particular schools or for particular roads. But we can’t really detect the whole picture. So the idea came about that you can’t tackle something if you can’t measure it. And there was a process to understand how we can measure. And the only solution which was really practical and sustainable is to create these dense networks of air quality monitors. This kind of solution provides us with sustainable data, as well, we took four years of research and development of particular sensors, so they’re not so expensive. And secondly, they create the most spatial resolution and more time frequent data measurement. Classical sensors, or reference stations, do calculations and take data only once an hour. So, yes, of course, you can understand something from that data, but if you particularly want to tackle a solution of a number of buses coming from a particular street, at a particular time, you can’t really measure it and work with the data if you only take it one hour. So our sensors take data every single minute. It’s not only about sensors and hardware. AirScape is a data solution. So, last week, we launched a beta version of our map, which is available to everyone on the website airscape.ai. Currently, our pilot project is covering only Camden, but we of course have ambitions to create this network in other boroughs of London and beyond London as well.

So it’s a real-time system, every minute?

It’s real time, every minute. And everyone who goes to the map on laptops or on their phones can see the level of pollution, and they see the resolution of it. So you can see actually how it changes from street to street. And as well, there’s a mostly permanent spot at Euston Road, of course, because it’s one of the most polluted streets, considered to be even in Europe. You can also search for the location. You can choose your school, for example, the place where you live. And then for each location, you’ll have a history of the data, for the whole period of those sensors operating, and for the previous hour, previous day or one week or one month, so there’s a different timeline. And also there’s a drop-down by pollutants. So you can see which pollutant dominates in your particular area. And on top of that, to make it user-friendly, we developed AQI, which is AirScape Quality Index and a leaf rating. So you can always, for each location, understand how bad it is in general and compare it to other locations as well.

Oh, AQI that sounds fascinating.

How do these sensors themselves actually work? I mean, I wonder if you can describe to our listeners what does this sensor look like and what’s inside it and how does it actually measure? How does it work? 

Yeah, difficult within the podcast because you can’t show them, but it’s actually quite a small device, which will fit in your hand, less than one kilogram. And it’s a device which has a combination of different sensors for each pollutant, combined together with data transmission components which use a 4G signal to send the data to our hubs and servers. Therefore, of course, it needs electricity and it’s located currently on lampposts, but the solution can be put on walls as well. The lamppost solution was the most feasible because it needed height and an open area. And of course, they have electricity, and you can create this kind of grid type of network. And based on the data we’ve seen from all these sensors; we interpolate them and understand the real-time data in each particular location in between those sensors.

And, and there’s AI built into this system?

Some bits of it. It’s mostly maths models which consider because air pollution also depends on multiple factors. It’s like a landscape; the height, the wind, and the temperature outside (if is freezing cold or it’s super-hot) so you need to consider all of these elements to receive realistic data so it’s not corrupted by any of this. But also you need to understand the geographic model for this particular territory. So it will be different because, if you have houses and different kinds of obstacles, you need to consider how air flows through the streets. So that’s also a big part of the development of the system and a big part, a big component of it is actually that’s in the model. It has taken a couple of years to finesse it, but now it’s stable, live and it’s proven within different research and pilot projects. 

I’ve had a chance, lucky enough to have a chance, to have a look at the online site. And it looks incredible because you can zoom in and zoom out and you can look at the history and you know, for those that might be listening that live in the borough of Camden, it’s amazing. You can check your own street out. You can check your own school out. As you mentioned earlier. What are some of the uses? What are the actual practical uses that businesses or the community can actually make of this network? 

Yeah, the key thing to understand is that data and air pollution and data on different environmental problems will be the most demanded data in years ahead. Cause as I mentioned before, you need to solve the problem, and do it by small actions. Sometimes it can be bigger, but if you look at your community, at the place where you live, even small activities, small things can change the situation radically. If all parents stop driving their kids to one particular school, the air quality will be improved during the hours they drop the children, for example. Or if you navigate the traffic in a better way, or if you put some kind of restrictions in this particular manner. But to understand whether your step is successful or not, you need to measure it before and measure it after.

So our system allows local authorities, families, community groups, and community activists to actually have the data, to work with it and to understand how their actions, or potential actions, could improve the situation. So this is the key thing that we provide this data for free for everyone, and then people can act on it and make some very important life decisions. Relocating for example, or, you know, limiting some kind of activities in the peak hours, being outside. Or taking safer routes while cycling or walking in their neighbourhood. And of course, businesses, businesses will be required to decrease the amount of pollution they produce. And therefore these data can be used, first of all, to put pressure on businesses, but secondly, for them to monitor themselves and to actually report to communities, to people that they are improving, so they can have proof of it.

So that’s the key idea that it’s not only having this data, it’s also doing something, and using this data. And the big thing is that researchers, academics, and health professionals, will all need this data for their particular research on air pollution, and all health problems related to that. And our system allows having this kind of really high-resolution data

To bring something together like this, you’ve obviously gotta have a very highly skilled team of engineers, data scientists, and project managers. So how has all this come together? Logistically? 

Yeah, so we need to deploy sensors, operate them, power them up, and locate them in particular locations. So therefore we need first, local government or local authorities for each particular borough, or it can be a citywide solution, to get all the approvals and their support of it. But we see boroughs and local governments being supportive of that because it’s a very important part of their strategy and commitments. So usually they’re receiving that really well. 

Secondly, you need to produce the devices. The first part of it was developed in our labs in Copenhagen and there have been five generations of those sensors, to create the most reliable one. 

And of course, there’s a software team, a very professional one, which creates the data modelling and data mapping on top of the data received from hardware.

This type of system, which connects hardware, software, and data-focused platform, doesn’t exist anywhere else. There are many companies that produce sensors. There are many kinds of crowdfunding/crowdsourcing campaigns on their solution. There are sporadic research projects. There are data platforms which try to use reference stations’ data, but you can’t get any resolution from that, so the data you have is very, very average. So the combination of [AirScape] is the only one solution that exists. Therefore, we’re really keen to spread it across London and go to other cities in the world, and to the most problematic cities in the world which are, of course, the biggest capitals.

Well, it’s amazing to have probably the densest real-time network of air quality sensors in our own borough of Camden, in our own city of London. Who pays for all this and how can it be financially supported? 

So we invested in deploying the network. But, uh, if you come to our map, you’ll see the map of sensors and you see a map of sponsors. We encourage local businesses and bigger companies to support us because, to maintain the network, it needs resources. So therefore we have sponsorship prices, quite small ones, and everyone can come to our platform and sponsor one, two or 10 sensors. And for these sponsors, for the users, we will provide more access to the platform with different features. Plus their logo can be seen so the community and the users will see which of the companies are really taking care of it and supporting it. 

Also, we work with bigger companies. We only launched our pilot model here in Camden, but we see that the big companies, and those companies that are the drivers of air pollution, should be responsible, and support the maintenance of such networks – to keep them alive and to keep this data available to everyone. So we see them and foundations, and maybe sometimes governments as key sources who need to support us and provide this data to people, citizens, community groups, activists, and everyone because we can only estimate how many lives this data can save a year. People with special conditions need to know air quality data right now, and also be alert of any kind of incidents or higher pollution levels happening. So we truly believe that if we do it together, and people will join more and more and support the network, we can at least decrease this 8 million dramatic number of deaths from air pollution. And effectively everyone will save their own lives because, as long as you live in a very air polluted area, the higher chance you’ll have of long-term diseases or just shorter, shorter life. So no one wants that. We see it as a collective action and we encourage everyone to go to the map, check the project and, either support or bring companies and businesses who can support this network.

So, Camden, you’ve got the prototype. It’s amazing what you’ve achieved so far. What are the next steps? 

Among the next steps, we have the ambition to go to the five major cities in the world and deploy a network or pilot project there by the end of the year. But our key goal is to cover 200 major cities around the globe, in a five, 10-year time perspective.

And the history started in Camden. There was a combination of factors, of course. Big support from The Camden Clean Air Initiative, from activists from the community, and from local borough authorities. London, I think at the end of March, had the highest pollution, even bigger than in Beijing. So London is really a critical city to start with. I think it brings a lot of visibility and credibility to our solution. So we thank everyone who supported this idea and who keeps supporting it. And we also look forward to multiplying this experience and actually getting London covered. Because if you look at the data, it doesn’t look really good for London. So we need to actually deploy it, and create those big movements and community actions to change the situation. Otherwise, London will become a city that you can’t live in or create long, long, long, long problems for many of its citizens. 

Great. Well, sounds like we might need an Elon Musk or someone to invest in this project! So in the future 5/10 years’ time, you’re in five major cities or you’re or a lot more by that time?

A lot more. We have a preferred list, of course, but it’s a very opportunistic approach because we also have a current pilot project in Milan, where we’ve installed, 10 sensors and created a small network to show the results to the local authorities and environmental agencies. So they see the difference, and they see how it works. And of course, the Camden platform helps us with that. So we have a lot of conversations about different cities and, our air quality network is already installed and working in Cork, a city in Ireland. There was a big demand because of the big port of Dublin – a lot of ships are coming and highly polluting the air inthis small town. So we see Ireland and Dublin as potentially one of the next cities. But we also of course go wide. The globe is big and the problem is huge. So it’s a matter of which locations, which cities are ready, and the potential sponsors who will be willing to invest in that. 

Well, what great work being done by AirLabs with their AirScape project. Thanks so much Dmytro for joining us here today. 

Thank you so much for the invitation. And again, thanks a lot to everyone who supported us and who keeps supporting us.

Today marks the sixth #NationalCleanAirDay

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change. It’s a public health crisis, happening right now. So much so, the World Health Organization has significantly reduced their air quality guidelines to save millions of lives from air pollution.

With the growing weight of scientific evidence of the health impacts of dirty air, Global Action Plan’s Clear Air Day is about raising awareness of the issue and, quite literally, taking small steps to make a difference.

Air pollution dirties every organ in your body. Take steps to improve your health and the planet this Clean Air Day.

According to their research, a quarter of journeys in England are under one mile, so walking, instead of taking the car, can make a big difference.

There are some fantastic free resources available on their website to learn more about your air pollution footprint and ways to reduce it.

Positive initiatives like these show that, as The Global Action Plan says, “there is hope, simple actions do have a positive impact on our health and our communities”.

The problem with air pollution is that current information about air quality is vague at best or simply unavailable.

In other areas of our wellbeing, measurement motivates and inspires us to improve or continue what we’re doing. To keep an eye on our weight, we can look at our BMI or make food choices based on calorific values or fat content. Just as we set exercise goals to be faster or stronger, we need measurement to show progress.

At AirScape, we firmly believe that air quality information should be accessible for everyone in the community. For the first time ever, we want to put actionable air quality information into the hands of the community for the good of the community.

AirScape’s radical new approach to measuring urban air quality can provide the visibility and insight to make effective decisions. Being able to see the actual level of dirty air, from one street to the next, in real time, enables everyone to see how they have a positive impact on our health and communities.

Whether it’s individual quality-of-life actions or clean air policies and regulation, reaching WHO air quality standards is impossible without doing a great job of diagnosing pollution sources in cities. Only then can we all take steps to manage and care for those most affected.

Contact us now to be part of the air quality revolution.

We share the great news that we have merged AirLabs Air Filtration Division with Rensair, a specialist in Indoor Air Quality.

Airlabs will continue under the leadership of Jorge M. Vasquez, to focus on the success of the Air Monitoring Division, including the AirScape/AirNode products.

Rensair has deep experience in hospital-grade air purification and has secured new funding to expand its presence across the world, introduce a broader product portfolio with IoT connectivity, and invest in marketing outreach. The acquisition of established AirLabs products such as the AirBubbl brings complementary filtration and IoT technologies to their product range.

Importantly, the Air Filtration sales and operational teams have transferred to Rensair to ensure our customers’ point of contact and level of service will remain unchanged. They can be assured that they remain a valued partner of AirLabs and now also of Rensair. 

Rensair is on a mission to protect and enhance lives through proven clean air technology. Founded in May 2020 by Danish twins Christian and Frederik Hendriksen, the company – whose over 800 customers include CBRE, Disney, Morgan Stanley, PepsiCo, SNCF, and the UK National Health Service (NHS) – is headquartered in London with operations in the UK, Europe, USA and Asia. More information can be found here.

“The pandemic has taught us that we cannot take air quality for granted, but airborne disease transmission is not the only reason to care about air quality”, said Christian Hendriksen, Co-founder and CEO at Rensair. “The proliferation of environmental pollutants, a rise in drug-resistant bacteria, and the newly identified threat of airborne microplastics are all reasons to improve Indoor Air Quality.” 

“Clean air is of course a defense mechanism against sick building syndrome and absenteeism, but it’s much more than that”, said Frederik Hendriksen, Co-founder and US CEO at Rensair. “It’s been proven to boost productivity and learning and, in one Harvard study, resulted in a 61% increase in cognitive scores. The ROI on Indoor Air Quality is far reaching.”

This exciting development should have limited impact, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.  

The AirNodeTM, AirLabs’ advanced air quality sensor, has been awarded the Best Accuracy Award for outdoor PM2.5 monitoring in Air Parif’s prestigious The Microsensors Challenge competition 2021.

The device is being installed as part of the world’s densest air quality sensor network, AirScapeTM . The network has been designed to transform how we monitor and manage air pollution, providing at least 100x more spatial resolution and refreshing 60x more regularly than other existing networks. AirNode, the key component to the network, enables hyper-local air quality data to be reported every minute to map the issue in real time. This award-winning technology provides minute by minute, street by street visibility on air pollution to drastically improve public health and wellbeing in urban spaces.

The AirNode device was assessed against 28 outdoor air quality sensors around the world in the Air Parif Airlab Microsensors Challenge. The company’s stand-out technology was awarded for its impeccable accuracy that will continue to play a critical role in transforming our knowledge and understanding of air pollution in urban spaces.

The AirNode was acknowledged for its low-maintenance, multi-pollutant measurement, at a competitive price, whilst providing excellent accuracy for PM1 and PM2.5.This is part of the company’s pursuit to bring affordable yet accurate sensor technology to the market. The AirNode provides a level of intelligence and accuracy that is critical to understanding and addressing the complex issues of urban air pollution. The AirNode’s award-winning accuracy, affordability and robust nature enables it to provide the level of precise data needed to inform impactful decision-making for all stakeholders interested in improving air quality in urban areas.

Marc Ottolini, CEO of AirLabs said: “There is huge potential for low-cost air quality sensors to help cities around the world to visualising and tackle air pollution at street level. AirParif’s Airlab challenge is instrumental in benchmarking sensors from many countries and drive innovation forward. We are proud to be one of the category winners in this year’s competition.”

Alongside PM1 and PM2.5, the AirNode device also measures a wider range of airborne particulate matter and toxic gases including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as temperature and humidity.

The Microsensors Challenge, organised by the leading air quality authority in Paris, Air Parif, was launched in response to the air pollution crisis, responsible for seven million premature deaths per year globally. The Challenge informs the growing international interest in air quality sensors on the most effective technologies on the market.

The world’s densest air quality sensor network will be installed in Camden, London, this summer, which aims to fundamentally transform how we monitor and manage air pollution to improve public health and well-being in urban spaces.

Air quality specialists AirLabs will install 250 advanced AirNode air quality sensors across the Borough, in partnership with Camden Council and The Camden Clean Air Initiative, an air pollution action group in the Borough.

The network will provide at least 100x more spatial resolution and refresh 60x more regularly than the network of existing air quality reference stations in Camden, capturing and reporting hyper-local air quality data every minute to map the issue in real time. The data will contribute to impactful decision making for all stakeholders interested in improving air quality in the Borough, from councils, individuals and communities to schools, offices, hospitals, retail and hospitality businesses.

The sensors will be deployed rapidly over the coming months and will complement the existing air quality monitoring network. Once launched, the data generated from the network can be used in a myriad of ways, enabling the public to map less polluted routes from A-to-B, feeding into local traffic management policy and providing NHS Trusts and schools with information to help raise awareness of air pollution and protect vulnerable communities. The future possibilities of how the data can be used are vast and AirLabs is aiming to engage with potential partners, clean air groups and councils to explore future collaboration.

Marc Ottolini, CEO of AirLabs, said: “Our ultra-dense network of sensors will provide unprecedented ultra-high definition visibility of local air pollution to allow communities, businesses and stakeholders to make more informed choices to protect the health and well-being of the local population.

“There’s no time to wait in tackling the air pollution crisis – we all contribute to air pollution, and we all suffer the health impacts that it causes. This new information system empowers us all to enact data-driven change and become part of the solution.

“Camden Council understands the importance of empowering the community to tackle this vital issue head on. This network will serve as a blueprint for boroughs across London and cities around the world, using the power of data to inform meaningful action and protect populations from the invisible threat of air pollution.”

Camden Council is at the forefront for driving change on air pollution having been the first to adopt World Health Organization air quality standards and with a host of initiatives already in place is partnering with AirLabs on this innovative project to realise its vision for a healthy and resilient borough.

Camden Councillor Adam Harrison said: “Camden’s citizens have made clear that more must be done to tackle the air quality health crisis, and Camden Council has committed to the meeting the World Health Organization air quality standards as well as stepping up our pollution monitoring and efforts to raise public awareness about the health risks from exposure to air pollution. This project will form an important part of our work to protect public health by building a more detailed understanding of the sources of air pollution throughout Camden and the actions we can all take to reduce pollution and our exposure to it.”

The dense network of AirNode sensor devices has been strategically designed to cover the entire borough of Camden, including areas underrepresented by the existing monitoring network and those most vulnerable to air pollution – schools, transport hubs, healthcare facilities and busy intersections. Each device will measure a wide range of air pollutants including airborne particulate matter and toxic gases (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3)), as well as temperature and humidity, giving the full picture of air quality in an area.

Devices will be optimally spaced to identify and differentiate between different sources of pollution, including whether they are localised sources such as road traffic and wood-burning, or regional sources such as industry. The devices will be installed on lampposts, buildings and other suitable infrastructure and take measurements every minute enabling detection of the smallest of changes.

Air quality is a localised issue, with pollution levels differing significantly from street to street. Even the most advanced air quality networks currently lack a street level understanding of air quality and gaps in the data mean that communities are missing the complete picture when it comes to the quality of air outside their homes, schools and offices.

The announcement of the network follows a recent coroner’s ruling which called on Government and local authorities to increase air quality monitoring and to do more to raise public awareness of the health risks from air pollution exposure. The government has pledged to significantly increase the air quality monitoring network in the UK and this project will act as a blueprint to demonstrate the benefits of a dense monitoring network.[1]

Prashant Kumar, Chair & Professor of Air Quality and Health, University of Surrey, said: “Research has shown that air pollution is hyper-local as well as regional. We need many air quality monitoring devices in a dense network to describe it accurately, diagnose the problem and identify sources and solutions.

“Dense networks of air quality sensor nodes recording in real-time, measuring a full range of pollutants from noxious gases to tiny particulates, are an important step towards winning the fight against air pollution and providing clean air for everyone.”

This revolutionary approach has been designed to engage everyone. AirLabs and The Camden Clean Air Initiative will work closely in encouraging local groups, businesses, NGOs and members of the public to ‘adopt an AirNode’ and engage with the data on the exciting new air quality map and analytics platform, launching in the autumn.

Jeffrey Young, CEO of Camden Clean Air Initiative said: During the COVID-19 pandemic, walking on our streets became more enjoyable as there were fewer cars on the road and less vehicle-derived pollution in the air. This flagship project aims to provide the council and our community with the data needed to get us back to that point – improving the health and well-being of our residents for the long term.

“Two key elements of The Camden Clean Air Initiative’s vision when we were founded were to fill the Borough with real-time air quality sensors and to put Camden on the map as a centre of excellence for sustainability and Greentech. By partnering with AirLabs we hope to achieve both these things.”

In London alone, air pollution accounts for approximately 4,100 premature deaths every year, worsening the impacts of lung and heart conditions as well as other respiratory illnesses including COVID-19. Killing more people annually than road traffic accidents, poor air quality costs society, businesses and our NHS services more than £15 billion a year. Air quality also has a proven impact on educational attainment and overall physical and mental well-being.

[1] DEFRA – Government response to the Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah Coroner’s report

One of the defining images from the past year was the sight of the world’s great cities standing empty, as people around the globe were ordered to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The desertion of our cities led to a striking reduction in air pollution, with the Centre for Cities reporting a 60 per cent drop during the first lockdown in some areas of the UK and reports of 150 fewer air pollution-related deaths in Spain in the same period.

The physical impacts of air pollution are well reported – it’s now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for almost nine million deaths every year and reducing life expectancy by an average of 2.9 years for people across the globe.

But the impact on mental health is often overlooked. A recent study in London found that increases in the key air pollutants – PM2.5, NOx and NO2 – are associated with up to 39% increased odds of common mental disorders.

As lockdown restrictions ease and our cities begin to come back to life, governments around the world must take action now to tackle the air pollution crisis and protect our physical and mental health.

An increasing threat

Air pollution levels have slowly crept up since the first lockdown and there is real concern that they may continue to increase beyond pre-pandemic levels. This is largely due to people using their cars more frequently because of a reluctance to return to public transport. YouGov research revealed that 60% of people in Brazil would use their car more following the pandemic and 40% of respondents in the US and Australia also said they expected to drive more.

This is a concerning trend and should be tackled as a matter of urgency. We must make public transport the quickest, cheapest and safest way to travel around our urban spaces or the rapid, dramatic drop in ridership will become permanent. 

During the pandemic, urban spaces have opened up and become pedestrianised to enable cafes, bars and restaurants to serve customers outside. We should aim to lock in these changes to remove cars from our towns and cities longer term.

But we can and must do more. In the UK, we learnt in this week’s Queen’s Speech that the Environment Bill will return after months of delays caused by the pandemic, and is set to include a framework for tackling air pollution. That framework has to set legal limits on air pollution and funding must be made available to our towns, cities and public transport operators to make long-lasting change to tackle the issue.

Sleepwalking into a mental health crisis

The pandemic has placed real strain on the mental health of people around the world, who have had to adjust to living in increased isolation under lockdown. 

A Swiss study found that many young adults, and young women in particular, experienced symptoms of mental illness during the first lockdown. More than half of young women and 38% of young men reported mild to severe symptoms of depression. The results relating to anxiety were similar. 

A study co-led by City, University of London and UCL researchers found that those with pre-existing mental health conditions were especially impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns, due to the loss of normal coping routines, barriers to accessing care, and the unequal impacts of the pandemic.

With air pollution expected to increase in urban spaces and a fragile public returning to our cities, there is potential for us to sleepwalk into a post-pandemic mental health crisis.

So what can be done by politicians to tackle this combined threat? 

Tackling urban air pollution

Along with pedestrianizing our cities and introducing legal limits on air pollution, there are a host of other measures that could protect bodies and minds.

The first and most important step is to act smarter in how we monitor air pollution in urban spaces.

Currently most cities install a limited number of monitoring stations in a few areas where air quality is expected to be a problem. While this setup can indicate air conditions in a city, crucially, it lacks the ability to pick up on localised and/or short-lived pollution hotspots.

This is a profound issue as air pollution is extremely dynamic, fluctuating significantly in time as well as location. For example, Imperial College London’s regular pollution monitoring shows that air quality can be four times worse in some streets than others, even within the same district.

Well-intentioned local authorities rightly want to improve the air quality in their urban spaces. But their limited data only offers a tiny fragment of the picture necessary to make informed and impactful decisions – meaning significant sums of public money can be spent without addressing the issue.

This has to change, and it will only change by using monitoring technology that gives decision makers a full and detailed picture of the air pollution problem in their cities. 

By creating a dense, high-resolution network of air-monitoring sensors and a visualisation and analytics software platform such as our AirIntel system, local authorities, health groups, businesses and communities will be able to assess air pollution data across an entire city. 

The real-time data enables us to build an accurate and useful picture of exposure – creating a detailed map that can be used to gain a full understanding of pollution hotspots and provide real insight into which mitigations will have the most impact and best protect the public. It can provide information for health researchers or can be shared with the public to advise on the healthiest route for them to commute, or even where to live and work to reduce their exposure to air pollution.

Another solution, which can help to reduce the cars on our roads by encouraging people back into public transport, is the AirBubbl, our in-vehicle air-cleaning device, which removes more than 95% of airborne viruses and contaminated particulate matter, including airborne coronavirus. The AirBubbl floods the vehicle with over 30,000 litres of clean air every hour, creating and replenishing a clean air zone for the driver and passengers to keep them safe.

Rethinking our cities following COVID-19

Mental Health Awareness Week gives us an opportunity to reflect on a challenging year for all of us, but also to think about the society we want to create after the pandemic.

In much of the western world, we are on the verge of tackling the invisible threat of COVID-19, but we must act now to mitigate the long-term mental health impacts of the virus.  

To do that we must reshape our cities and place health and wellbeing at their heart: by pedestrianizing public spaces, reducing traffic congestion, investing in public transport, and tackling the air pollution crisis before it’s too late.

Written by Matthew Johnson, chief science officer at AirLabs and professor of chemistry at the University of Copenhagen.