‘We all deserve clean air’: UK communities take action against air pollution

From January 2016, UK communities will be able to work together to measure air pollution on their streets. This crowdfunded initiative is being set up by Social Enterprise Mark holder Mapping for Change, based at University College London.

Mapping for ChangeCommunity groups of all ages and abilities will collect air quality information using simple but reliable equipment. The amount and variety of equipment supplied will be determined by the funds raised, and will range from small plastic diffusion tubes to high-grade black carbon monitors. Results will be mapped online to create a UK-wide evidence base, comparable with statutory EU guidelines.

Air pollution is a significant killer. Annual figures reveal 7 million deaths worldwide, 60,000 deaths in the UK, and over 9,400 deaths in London alone. Ill-health as a result of air pollution poses serious ramifications for already over-stretched NHS budgets and national productivity. As Alan Andrews, a lawyer from ClientEarth commented, “for every person who dies early from air pollution, many more are made seriously ill, have to visit hospital or take time off work”.

To get involved, community groups can donate to the crowdfunding page. Options begin at £250 for 10 diffusion tubes, a months’ worth of monitoring and analysis, and results mapped online. People of all ages are encouraged to get involved, including school groups.

Louise Francis, Co-director of Mapping for Change, explained that “having access to meaningful evidence on air pollution is vitally important. As well as enabling people to reduce their personal exposure, it boosts communities’ confidence to call for change and get involved in decision making processes.”

Marylebone resident and previous scheme participant Sheila D’Souza commented that her community “feel very empowered and highly motivated to pursue this in the form of an active campaign to make sure that our needs for decent clean air are met”.

Mapping for Change is a wholly owned subsidiary of UCL, working with groups and organisations who want to understand, improve and produce information about the places that matter to them.

For more information, please visit the Mapping for Change website. To make a donation, please visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/community-air-pollution-monitoring/.