Public to measure UK air pollution in huge citizen science project

Friends of the Earth's Clean Air Kit will help people monitor air quality where they live
  Published:  27 Apr 2017    |      Last updated:  08 Oct 2018    |      2 minute read

Friends of the Earth’s citizen science project to measure air pollution hopes to become biggest of its kind, as survey reveals only 1 in 10 think their air quality is bad.

Friends of the Earth has launched an ambitious citizen science project to measure air pollution and help the public find out about the air they’re breathing.

Our Clean Air Kits enable people to test air quality where they live, as well as providing tips on:

  • avoiding air pollution
  • what you can do to support the fight for clean air.

We’re hoping the experiment will become the biggest of its kind in the UK.

The kit comes as a YouGov poll reveals that although nearly two thirds of British adults (61%) say they are concerned about air pollution, only 1 in 10 (11%) rate their own air quality as bad - despite much of the UK breaking pollution limits.

Air pollution is linked to heart disease, lung cancer, worsening asthma and poor lung development in children. This leads to up to 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, according to the government's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) in September 2018.

38 out of the UK’s 43 air quality zones are breaching legal limits for air pollution (pdf).

But the survey suggests that the message about the UK’s poor air quality isn’t getting through.

Photo of Angela Needham, local Friends of the Earth activist
Angela Needham
Credit: Neil Baird

Angela Needham (pictured above), a Friends of the Earth local group member, was involved in a pilot of our experiment, monitoring the air in Hull.

She can tell when the air is polluted, she says, because it worsens her COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). “I don’t go to London if I can help it because it takes me a week to recover,” she says.

Measuring air pollution nationwide

Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, says: “Our Clean Air Kits help people to find out about the air quality in the places they care about most: on the street where they live, where they work, where their children go to school and at the heart of their communities.”

The results from the Clean Air Kits are helping us build a picture of air pollution across the UK. You can see the results so far on our UK-wide air pollution map.

Dr Ben Barratt, a senior air quality scientist at King’s College London, says: “Friends of the Earth’s Clean Air Kits are a valuable tool in enabling people to discover what air pollution is like in places that matter to them. If enough people take part, the data they gather could shed new light on the reality of pollution at a local level throughout the country.”

This article was first published on 1 March 2017