Air pollution monitoring in Camden

According to a chilling 2015 study by King’s College London, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), combined with fine particles in the air, kills nearly 9,500 Londoners each year – 264 of those deaths are in Camden. NOharms our lungs, heart and circulation and is especially dangerous to children, the elderly and people suffering from asthma and other lung conditions.

The World Health Organisation and the European Union have concluded that breathing air with an average annual concentration of more than 20 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre (20µg/m³) is potentially harmful. The EU has set a legal limit of 40µg/m³, however many of Britain’s towns and cities exceed this level and the British government has been taken to court because it does not have adequate plans to bring levels within legal limits by 2020.

We wanted to find out whether air we breathe in Camden is toxic, so Camden Air Action worked with Camden Green Party and local residents to measure NO2 pollution across the borough. Monitoring started in November 2015 at more than 50 locations around Highgate, Hampstead, Kentish Town and Gospel Oak during November and December 2015. Since then, a similar number of sites have been monitored in Primrose Hill, Frognal, King’s Cross and Holborn, with more planned.

The results were shocking, with very few locations below the legally binding 40µg/m³ limit and some pollution hot spots more than double. For more details, see the citizen science air monitoring page and the  Camden Green Party’s Air Pollution map of Camden on the Camden Green Party’s website.

We used the tried-and-tested ‘Citizen Science’ method, which was originally used by Camden Green Party in Highgate in 2013. The method is based on small diffusion tubes, which are attached to lampposts or street signs and stay in place for around a month before being sent to a specialised laboratory for analysis.

The method is called ‘Citizen Science’ because the diffusion tubes are cheap and easy to use by local groups and individuals. However it is not in any way amateurish: the diffusion tubes are used by a range of official bodies across Britain and Europe, including local authorities and the government.

Camden Air Action is keen to carry on monitoring to cover as much of the borough as possible and to retest locations to see if pollution levels have changed. If you’d like to undertake air pollution monitoring where you live, Camden Green Party is happy to help. Please email camden@greenparty.org.uk for more details.

In order to determine the levels of PM air pollution in Camden, a Particulate Matter monitor was loaned. The results can be seen in the PM Monitoring Report.

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