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London schoolchildren to monitor air quality with backpacks


Children from five London primary schools will carry monitors in their backpacks for a week as part of research into the city’s air quality.

The 1kg monitors, designed to fit into lightweight backpacks with room for school equipment, measure PM2.5 and PM10 particulates and nitrogen dioxide levels. 250 children from schools in Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey and Hammersmith and Fulham will take part.

The sensors have been developed by manufacturer Dyson with King’s College London, whose scientists will analyse the results to see where and when children are most exposed to pollution and make recommendations on reducing this.

The project was launched by London mayor Sadiq Khan at Haimo primary school in Greenwich, one of the five schools involved, on 19 March. The school already provides pupils with walking route maps and the Royal Borough of Greenwich closes the road outside to traffic at the start and end of the day, leading to 35% fewer parents driving children to school.

Danny Thorpe, leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “Greenwich has the largest air quality monitoring network of all the London boroughs, but it doesn’t cover all the residential streets that children use on their way to school. Getting good quality data from projects like this will help us make the case for taking even more action to reduce the number of cars on our streets and clean up our air.”

The Greater London Authority-funded project is one of three organised by Breathe London, a collaboration designed to provide more localised information on air quality in the capital. It has also installed 100 air quality sensors on lampposts and buildings and installed mobile sensors on Google Street View cars that can take readings every 30 to 60 metres.

The initiative was set up as part of the C40 Air Quality Network, jointly led by London and Bangaluru in India. It is part of C40 Cities, a group of 94 cities around the world taking initiatives on climate change. London is the sole UK member.


Images of adapted backpack and of London mayor Sadiq Khan with staff and pupils at Haimo primary school in Greenwich courtesy of GLA.

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