The European Union is preparing to update its Air Quality Directive, slashing the exposure thresholds for NO2 and PM, and bringing them into line with the recent recommendations of the World Health Organization.
This expert opinion, from the most respected voices in the atmospheric chemistry community, recommends that dense networks of low-cost air pollution sensors be included as an integral part of monitoring programs, as the only way to guarantee compliance and protect people.
“This article provides an informed opinion on selected features of the air quality directive that we believe would beneﬁt from a reassessment. The selected features include discussion about
(1) air quality sensors as a part of a hierarchical observation network,
(2) the number of minimum sampling points and their siting criteria, and
(3) new target air pollution parameters for future consideration.”
Opinion: Insights into updating Ambient Air Quality
They argue that the best way to get the job done, the only way, the cheapest way, is to install high density sensor networks across high population density areas in Europe.
AirScape provides street-level air quality data in real time. By supplementing the existing monitoring stations, we help cities come into compliance with the coming revisions to the EU exposure limits.
The European Union intends to revise its ambient air quality directive (2008/50/EC) so they are more closely aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines published in 2020.
The revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives will merge the Directives into one, and seek to:
We think this revision is overdue.
It’s a step in the right direction, but there is evidence that it still is not going far enough.
This revision will result in a decrease in mortality and an improvement in quality of life. It is good news for people and it is good news for the economy. Enforcement is crucial.
It is also time to revise the measurement station based observation network. It’s expensive and sparse. Technology has advanced to the point where dense networks of low cost sensors can be used, especially in areas of high population density. In combination with fixed measurement stations, they greatly increase the temporal and spatial resolution of monitoring.
This is critically important as local emissions can only be seen effectively with a dense network. In many cases, these local emissions are the main factor when WHO guidelines are exceeded.
Critically, local emissions are under local control. Dense networks give local communities control of their own fate and empower local decision making.
This paper by our talented team in Copenhagen was published in the prestigious international peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. They used data from the Staffordshire network to answer the question, ‘Are dense networks of low-cost nodes better at monitoring air pollution?’
They found that the dense network sees a lot of pollution that is not seen by the regional monitoring stations, and that additional local pollution is what pushes concentrations over the WHO exposure threshold. The local component of pollution is large and often invisible to the regional stations.
‘We determine that at least 54.3 ± 4.3 % of NO 2 is from local sources, whereas in contrast, only 37.9 ± 3.5 % of PM 2.5 is local.’
Air pollution exhibits hyper-local variation, especially near emissions sources. In addition to people’s time-activity patterns, this variation is the most critical element determining exposure.
Compared to conventional air pollution monitoring stations, nodes containing low-cost air pollution sensors can be deployed with very high density.
In this study, a network of 18 AirNodes using low-cost air pollution sensors was deployed in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, UK, in June 2020.
‘The network average NO2 concentration was 12.5 µg m−3 higher than values reported by a nearby regional air quality monitoring station. This demonstrates the critical importance of monitoring close to sources before pollution is diluted.’
We found that data from our low-cost air pollution sensor network revealed insights into patterns of air pollution, and helped determine whether sources were local or non-local.
Read the full paper here
Wherever you stand on the pros and cons of Electric Vehicles (EVs), increasing the use of EVs will undoubtedly improve air quality.
At AirScape, we measure hyper-local air pollution in real time. At street level, electric vehicles provide clear benefits for local air quality, with zero exhaust emissions.
Of course, even electric vehicles generate particulate matter through road, tyre, and brake wear. And they carry a hefty carbon footprint in their manufacture and in the production of batteries. However, according to a 2021 study by the International Council on Transportation, emissions over the lifetime of electric vehicles in Europe are 66% to 69% lower than those from petrol cars.
Switching to electric vehicles could also help to minimise noise pollution, especially in cities where speeds are typically low and traffic is frequently at a standstill.
Another study in the US found that the use of EVs leads to substantial air pollution health and other benefits.
“Incentivizing a rapid uptake of EVs will improve population health nearly immediately as most benefits of reduced mortality attributable to air pollution accrue in the short term.”
Ernani F.Choma, John S.Evans, James K.Hammitt, José A.Gómez-Ibáñez & John D.Spenglerb
We installed our award-winning AirNodes at five locations in Cork, Ireland, which show that there are measurable improvements in air quality where there are no diesel and petrol engines. The success of Cork’s award-winning pedestrianisation project is also being hailed as a major step in making the city a much safer and healthier environment.
Now AirScape in Camden is giving us minute-by-minute air quality data at street level. The expanded ULEZ and other initiatives are helping to clean up London’s air. More good news is that, according to the ONS, over half of younger drivers are likely to switch to electric in the next decade.
We’ll soon be able to see the improvements in air quality on London’s streets, at airscape.ai, and also see where there’s still room for improvement.
AirScape’s Chief Science Officer, Professor Matthew Johnson says:
“We do see the benefit of banning traffic on air quality in the centre of Cork. We’re watching AirScape in Camden closely to see how the shift in the composition of the vehicle fleet takes effect in London.”
Last week, AirScape saw many NO2 and PM events in Camden. These screenshots from airscape.ai were all on Thursday and, in the afternoon, we measured NO2 spikes of more than 100 ug/m3.
Transient exposure to high NO2 and PM is an immediate health risk and puts an extra strain on already overburdened NHS emergency resources.
The statistics on the impacts of air pollution tend to be more about the long-term effects of chronic exposure. However, we know it can also trigger symptoms and bring on serious illness immediately.
According to research by King’s College London, emergency services attended more than 120 additional cardiac arrests, more than 230 additional strokes, and nearly 200 more people with asthma requiring hospital treatment on days of high pollution.
When this report was published, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: “It’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency. Since these avoidable deaths are happening now, not in 2025 or 2050, together we need to act now.”
It’s important to be able to see where and when the spikes occur, simply so you can avoid them.
It could save your life – today.
Residents complain about noise and pollution from building sites. Construction companies complain about the expense of sitting idle at night and at weekends when regulations are in place. By finding better methods we will help to improve life for everyone in the neighbourhoods and allow construction companies to make better use of the site, identifying low-impact methods and processes that can be performed at any time.
At AirScape, we are proud and excited to be a part of this lighthouse project. Our sensor network provides real-time monitoring of air quality and noise, on and around the construction site.
By measuring and documenting everything, there’s transparency for the company and for residents. It’s a win-win!
Project – The Green Construction Site of the Future
Project start: January 2021
Expected completion: December 2023
2030 climate targets and a large focus on pollution from construction sites near cities make it necessary to look at a green transition in the construction industry. Until December 2023, Per Aarsleff and the project Green Building Site of the Future will examine the effect of various measures on one or more selected construction sites.
The project establishes a data-driven, full-scale demonstration of the green building site of the future. The initiatives involve converting construction machines to electricity and other alternative fuels such as HVO or GTL. Some special machines that cannot be converted will have a particulate filter and SCR catalyst fitted. In addition, CO2-reducing energy systems will be established. For example, solar cells and digital tools will contribute to on-site logistics optimization and smart behaviour.
Sensors measure the effect
Sensors on the site, and on the individual vehicles, will measure the effect of the actions, which will be implemented individually. With the help of sensor technology and location data, among other things, a heat map shows where, for example, a tractor has run, what it does and how much it costs in terms of emissions of particles and CO2. The goal is to create a so-called digital twin that documents current driving, and where it is possible to see how logistics can reduce driving and thus emissions and CO2.
Solar cells and heat pumps are integrated
A further initiative is a smart energy infrastructure with solar cells and heat pumps on the scavenger trucks, supplemented by energy storage for balancing the load. The Danish Technological Institute will uncover and analyse electricity consumption to identify possible energy savings and increased flexibility.
Evidence for green initiatives
The purpose is to provide the industry with evidence of which green initiatives provide the most climate and environmental impact for the money. The vision is that the project will contribute to the sustainable society of the future, where the availability of sustainable alternatives causes more builders to demand more sustainable building sites.
Per Aarsleff A/S
DCE – National Center for the Environment and Energy, Aarhus University
Aarhus University – Engineering
Volvo Construction machines
Institute of Technology (project manager)
The project is supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s MUDP program and is a so-called lighthouse project and is carried out in close cooperation with the client, Ejendomsselskabet Olav de Linde A/S.
Read more about the Green Construction Site of the Future in their press release here.
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:
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com / +44 (0) 7765 325141.
Jessie Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0) 7763540629
Notes to editors
1 March, the day of tube strikes in London, forcing people to use road transport.
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.
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.
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