BBC to showcase pollution sensors in localized urban air quality project


A UK project to demonstrate community action’s effectiveness in tackling localized transport-related air quality issues will be showcased in a BBC TV program to be broadcast tonight (January 10).

In collaboration with resident groups, television producers, and TV personality Dr Xand van Tulleken, EarthSense Systems has demonstrated the effectiveness of how changes in personal mobility methods can affect local air quality.

The initiative, which took place in December 2017 in Kings Heath, a Birmingham suburb, illustrated the challenges that typical urban communities face in congested high streets and busy shopping areas. As part of a day-long campaign of action, residents were urged to leave their cars at home, instead commuting or doing the school run by public transport, on foot or by bicycle.

Volunteers carried out pedestrian and traffic surveys. The results will be shown in Fighting for Air this evening, presented by van Tulleken.

Special air pollution sensors developed by EarthSense, a joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester, monitored changes in air pollution on the day, comparing these to recordings taken elsewhere in Birmingham. In the run-up to the community initiative, EarthSense used its state-of-the-art Zephyr air quality monitoring sensors to measure the base line of air pollution along the busy Kings Heath High Street and outside St Dunstan’s Catholic Primary School. Results showed consistently high readings across the course of each of the proceeding three days, with peaks in nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) during rush hour and school drop off and pick-ups.

Spearheaded by the Residents Forum, the Kings Heath Clean Air Day on December 1 encouraged locals to ‘leave your car at home’. During the course of the day, the EarthSense Zephyrs captured real-time measurements of air pollution and, when compared with previous results, it became apparent that the community action had achieved substantial reductions in NO₂. Building on the Kings Heath’s project success, EarthSense has launched a range of air quality community packages.

“We need to reinvent our high streets and communities to create relaxing and enjoyable environments, and clean and healthy air is a key part of the package. Our air quality sensors provide a tangible way of recording and presenting evidence which can be used to plan and promote further initiatives,” commented Prof. Roland Leigh, technical director of EarthSense Systems. “This program clearly demonstrates the positive outcomes that can be achieved as a result of community action.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).