Research from Queen Mary University of London has shown once again the vital importance of getting real air pollution data at hyperlocal level, continuously, and in real time.

As the BBC reported:

“Regular exposure to even low levels of air pollution may cause changes to the heart similar to those in the early stages of heart failure, experts say.

A study of 4,000 people in the UK found those who lived by loud, busy roads had larger hearts on average than those living in less polluted areas.

This was despite the fact people in the study were exposed to pollution levels below the UK guidelines.”

AirSensa’s solution for hyperlocal monitoring can deliver the guidance needed to help people avoid as much air pollution as possible – and research like this is showing why it’s so important.

The story can be seen at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45034972

As part of AirSensa’s plan to establish large demonstration meshes to showcase low-cost monitoring in major cities, AirSensa will roll out its first City Demonstration Mesh (CDM) in Manchester over the next few months.  Transport for Greater Manchester will work with AirSensa, three local universities, and a range of other partners to install a network of 200 AirSensa pollution sensor units to monitor key air pollutants in real time.

The project focuses on a number of specific use-cases that will allow TfGM to investigate the value of hyperlocal air quality data and its application to transport planning.

A report by think-tank IPPR North published in June 2018 noted that 1.6m life years will be lost to people living in Greater Manchester over the coming century unless urgent action is taken, while the annual cost of air pollution to the local economy tops £1billion.  In addition, the report found that Central Manchester has the highest rate of hospital admissions for asthma in the country, followed by North Manchester, and linked the prevalence of the condition to particulate vehicle pollution.

AirSensa’s ambition is to make granular real-time monitoring of air quality available for the first time – installing thousands of units in cities and urban environments across UK, and Europe. Through its unique STORRM platform, AirSensa will collect, analyse and disseminate this data to individuals, businesses and policymakers.  This technology offers a sea-change in how we can tackle air pollution, both in terms of helping people avoid its worst effects, and in developing effective interventions and solutions.

From the BBC’s programme description:

“The UK government says air pollution is the fourth biggest threat to public health after cancer, obesity and heart disease.  We speak to a father whose daughter was rushed to hospital with breathing problems – he blames poor air quality. We’ll find out what the authorities are doing to try and reduce congestion.

Ministers have also committed to ending the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040. But will we really all be driving around in electric cars?  A survey commissioned by You and Yours from YouGov suggests many people in the UK still aren’t ready to make the switch.”

You can hear the whole programme while it’s still available at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b9v6v0

AirSensa has established an advisory council of experts in fields and industries that align with the Company’s interests, including:

  • Michael Brockman
  • Professor Pali Hungin OBE DL MD FRCP FRCGP FRSA
  • Dr Peter Biesenbach
  • Anthony Bouchier

Mike Brockman founded Insure The Box Limited in 2009.  In March 2015, ANDIE, the European arm of Asian insurance giant MS&AD, acquired 75% of Box Innovation Group Limited for £105 million, the holding company of Insure The Box Limited and BIG Telematics. In January 2018, Michael founded “ThingCo”, a brand which reflects how to leverage data from the Internet of Things.

Professor Pali Hungin is a former President of the British Medical Association (2016/17).  He has been Foundation Dean of Medicine at Durham University and Head of School since 2002, was appointed OBE in 2000, and in 2008 became Deputy Lieutenant for County Durham.

Dr Peter Biesenbach spent much of his career in senior roles at the Federation of German Industries (BDI), culminating in his role as Senior Vice President and Executive Director Foreign Economic Affairs and International Relations.  Dr Biesenbach then spent 10 years at Robert Bosch GmbH as Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Department External Affairs and Governmental and Political Relations.

Anthony Bouchier has more than 30 years’ experience in building enterprises in international television and media, starting his career at IMG, before creating Wisden Online in 2003, and, in 2009, Twig World, a digital education company that works closely with the BBC and Imperial College London, distributing content to more than 3,000 schools in the UK and a further 200,000 schools across 70 countries in 19 languages.

Read more about our advisory council and the rest of the senior AirSensa team on our Partners page.

According to a report recently published by Unicef ‘A Breath of Toxic Air’, more than 4.5 million children – almost a third of under-18s – in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of small particulate air pollution, including 1.6 million under-fives and 270,000 babies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 70% of towns and cities in the UK have unsafe levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). 

The Unicef report relates to the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit of 10µg/m3 set in 2005 (as opposed to the EU legal limit which is 25µg/m3).

Air pollution may be invisible, but it’s incredibly dangerous for children. Breathing toxic air can damage their growth and leave them with lasting health problems. Unborn babies, newborns and young children are particularly vulnerable because their bodies are still developing.

PM2.5 refers to tiny particles of pollution in the air that have a diameter less than 2.5 µm, smaller than the width of a human hair.  These tiny particles are the most dangerous for our health as they’re able to penetrate deep into our lungs, and potentially even into our bloodstream and our brains. For babies and young children, these health effects are even more acute. Exposure to toxic particulates during these critical early stages of development can leave a child with stunted lungs, respiratory conditions like asthma, and reduced brain development.

Amy Gibbs, at Unicef UK, said: “The findings force us to face a shocking reality about the acute impact on children’s health. Worryingly, one third of our children could be filling their lungs with toxic air that puts them at risk of serious, long-term health conditions.

“It’s unacceptable that the most vulnerable members of society, who contribute the least to air pollution, are the ones suffering most from its effects,” she said. “The government must accept this is a children’s health crisis and offer targeted action and funding to reduce their exposure.”

The Unicef report comes not long after the UK government lost the latest in a round of legal actions brought around air quality, specifically Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).  The government has lost three times in the high court for failing to deal with illegal levels of NO2 and is now being taken to Europe’s highest court.

The European Commission recently published a paper to accompany its decisions on improving air quality, titled ‘A Europe that protects: Clean air for all’.

“Air pollution is a cause of both chronic and serious diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer,” the paper said.

But is the commission’s policy actually leading to clean air for all?

On 17 May, the EU’s environment commissioner, Maltese politician Karmenu Vella, announced that the commission had referred six EU members to court – France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom.  The move is part of the EU’s infringement procedure, which is the commission’s main legal tool to get member states in line with EU law.

At a press conference in Brussels, Vella said that plans the six countries had proposed in the previous months were insufficient to bring down levels of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

“We have waited for compliance – some of the PM compliance had to be in 2005, the NO2 compliance had to be in 2010, so I think we’ve waited a long time,” said Vella.  “We cannot possibly wait any longer,” he added.

Three other EU countries – Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Spain – were asked to send in new air quality plans, but escaped a court referral, the measures these three announced would improve air quality “in a reasonable time frame”.

The Health and Environment Alliance (Heal), a Brussels-based non-profit lobby group, remains unconvinced.  “We consider this a half-hearted approach, and think that with this double standard in pursuing air pollution, EU commissioner Vella sends the wrong message to Europe’s citizens, as everyone in the whole of Europe has a right to clean air and to having their health protected,” said Heal’s director for strategy and campaigns Anne Stauffer.

Looking at the World Health Organisation’s recently updated colour-coded map of particulate matter pollution, one of the worst areas is northern Italy, which explains why Italy would be referred to court.  But the situation is equally bad in Slovakia and parts of the Czech Republic, which have for now avoided court referral.

And while the focus has been on these nine EU countries, since their ministers were invited for an air quality ministerial summit in Brussels last January, citizens in other EU countries also suffer from poor air quality. 

In addition to the Nine, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Slovenia are also on the receiving end of the infringement procedure.  These ten additional countries have too high NO2 levels, too high PM levels, or both.  But according to the commission’s infringement database, no new formal steps have been taken in several years.

Some pupils in London are being taught in classrooms where air is so polluted it breaches World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, a study has found.  In some cases, the report found that pollution levels inside the schools were higher than outside.  Sadiq Khan wants the funds to allow schools to make “immediate changes”.  A review of existing studies concluded that “children living or attending schools near high traffic density roads were exposed to higher levels of motor vehicle exhaust gases, and had higher incidence and prevalence of childhood asthma and wheeze”.

The study, by University College London and the University of Cambridge, found differences in pollution levels between classrooms depended on a range of factors, including building characteristics, design and maintenance.  The published findings follows a series of audits which were launched last year and completed with a set of recommendations for schools across 23 boroughs. Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, said she was pleased to see London’s air pollution problem being addressed.  “We know that air pollution can stunt the growth of children’s lungs, and is linked to asthma and chronic chest problems later in life.”

A decade-long Canadian study of 6.6 million people, published in The Lancet, found that 1 in 10 dementia deaths in people living within 50 metres of a busy road was attributable to traffic fumes and noise. The team tracked adults aged between 20 and 85 living in Ontario from 2001 to 2012 and over the study period, more than 243,000 people developed dementia, 31,500 people developed Parkinson’s disease and 9,250 people developed multiple sclerosis.

While there was no association between living near a road and Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, there was an association with dementia. A linear decline in deaths was found the further people lived away from heavy traffic, with a 7% higher risk in developing dementia among those living within 50 metres; a 4% higher risk at 50-100 metres and a 2% higher risk at 101-200 metres. After 200 metres there was no increase. Around 850,000 people suffer from dementia in Britain, and it is now the leading cause of death for both men and women – resulting in these findings being significant for the UK.

According to the EEA’s Air quality in Europe – 2016 report, 467,000 people died prematurely in 2013 due to air pollution. With over 430,000 due to PM2.5 and 71,000 from NO2 (there is a certain level of cross over). In the UK, air pollution overall costs the economy more than £20bn per year – just under 16% of the NHS’s annual £116bn budget.

A report conducted jointly by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle in 2016 concluded that premature deaths due to air pollution are costing the global economy $5.1tn annually.

This is roughly twice the economic output of the UK, with more than half of that burden falling on China and other developing economies in Asia. More than 90% of those premature deaths attributed to air pollution occurred in developing countries with children under 5 in lower income countries 60 times as likely to die from exposure to bad air as in high-income countries, according to the report.

The welfare losses in Europe and Central Asia (a region that includes developing economies such as Russia) accounted for $1.2tn of the global cost, while North America represented $495bn of the losses.