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London to use sensor-equipped school backpacks to monitor air quality

The trial stipulates that 250 children will carry the sensors during a week


London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan launched an air quality monitoring trial in which 250 children attending primary schools will carry special backpacks with air quality sensors on their journey to and from school.

This new trial will monitor the levels of toxic air young Londoners are exposed to, Khan said.

The initiative stipulates that 250 children attending five London primary schools in Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey and Hammersmith and Fulham will take part in the project, wearing specially adapted backpacks for a week.

Weighing just over 1 kg, the sensors fit into lightweight bags and measure particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. The children will use the backpacks like a normal bag because the monitor only takes up one pocket, leaving plenty of room for school equipment while allowing the monitors to record pollutant levels on each child’s journey to school and throughout the school day.

The data from this study will allow scientists from King’s College to analyze at which point of their journey to school children are exposed to the most pollution. They will also be able to the compare the exposure of children who have similar journeys but take different routes and travel modes and then make recommendations on how children can reduce their exposure in future.

The wearable sensors are the latest stage of the Breathe London project to create the most comprehensive air quality monitoring network of its kind in the world. Breathe London, which includes more than 100 fixed monitors and the deployment of air quality monitoring cars on the streets of London, is being delivered by a consortium led by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and mostly funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

“It remains a shameful fact that London’s toxic air is harming the lung growth and health of our young children, and we are determined to do everything in our power to protect them,” Khan said. “An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action to protect future generations and ensure our children breathe cleaner, healthier air. I’m proud that we’re able to launch world-leading studies like this which will help us find new ways to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air.”

“Air pollution has been found to restrict lung growth in children,” said Ben Barratt, of King’s College London. ” Low lung function in childhood can persist into adulthood and is often associated with other health problems including chronic obstructive lung disease in later life.

“Analyzing the impact of air pollution and providing information to our local, national and international communities is a core component of King’s civic responsibility. By monitoring the air that children breathe on the journey to and from school, we will gain a better understanding of which pollutants are the most harmful and where they are coming from, helping us to support effective improvements in public health.”

The new sensors have been developed by Dyson engineers in cooperation with King’s College London as part of the Mayor’s Breathe London project, which was launched in January.

Jessica Le Dinh, Category Intelligence Engineer, Dyson, said: “Our engineers have been researching clean air technologies for over two decades. Our team of experts applied their leading knowledge to develop intelligent sensors, compact enough to fit in children’s backpacks. They use our unique algorithm to process detailed reports about London’s air pollution.




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