• Breathe London combines state-of-the-art technology and analysis to identify London’s toxic air hotspots
  • Sensors will measure air quality in tens of thousands of locations around the capital to create the world’s most advanced air quality monitoring network
  • Online real-time maps will help Londoners to avoid pollution hotspots
  • Google Street View cars are equipped with mobile air quality sensors

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today launched the world’s most advanced and comprehensive network of air quality monitors to help investigate and improve London’s toxic air.

Breathe London will use a range of cutting-edge fixed and mobile sensors to build up a real-time, hyperlocal image of London’s air quality. The data these monitors collect from across the capital will provide an unprecedented level of detail about London’s air quality crisis and deliver new insight into the sources of pollution.  

To deliver this world-leading project, the Mayor has collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund Europe and Google Earth Outreach, who have equipped two of their iconic Street View cars with air quality sensors. These will take pollution readings approximately every 30 metres at tens of thousands of locations whilst they travel through London’s streets, building up a picture of London’s air quality over the course of a year and identifying areas of toxic air that the network of fixed monitors might miss. Meanwhile, 100 state-of-the-art fixed sensor pods will be mounted on lampposts and buildings close to known air quality hotspots and sensitive locations such as schools and nurseries.

The data generated by this new network will be available for the public to view on an interactive online map on the Breathe London website. The map will show Londoners the condition of the air they are currently breathing and allow more accurate pollution forecasting.

This project builds on London’s existing air quality monitoring network, operated by the boroughs and King’s College London. With more than 100 fixed monitors in use London’s existing air quality monitoring network is already the most advanced of any world city. The Breathe London project augments this by providing the ability to identify hotspots all over the city wherever they might be.  

The Breathe London project is being delivered by a consortium led by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The project itself was devised by City Hall and the C40 Cities – the leading global alliance of cities committed to addressing climate change. Once this approach and technology has been proven in London, the goal is to see it introduced in cities around the world.

The Mayor launched the project this morning at Charlotte Sharman Primary School in Southwark. As well as hosting one of the new fixed monitors, Charlotte Sharman was also one of 50 schools involved in the Mayor’s air quality audits programme last year. The school has now received £10,000 to help implement air quality improvements, including the installation of a new green wall.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “London’s filthy air is a public health crisis that leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.

“An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action, so I’m proud that we’re leading the world in establishing this new monitoring network – allowing Londoners to see the levels of pollution at a local level. This real-time data will also help us learn more about London’s toxic air and help us to put the right policies in place to continue our clean-up efforts. As a recent Aether report demonstrated, these actions will benefit all Londoners, but particularly those living in the capital’s deprived areas. I hope the success of this scheme will act as a blueprint for cities around the world as they battle their own toxic air emergencies.

“The launch of Breathe London is just one part of my campaign to improve London’s air quality, alongside cleaning up the bus fleet, funding a scrappage scheme for micro-businesses to remove the most polluting vans and the launch of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in April. But we can't win this battle without more help from the Government, who, as we saw from their hugely disappointing Clean Air Strategy yesterday, are still failing to take this problem seriously and offer the support London needs to tackle this public health crisis.”

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Environmental Defense Fund, Europe, Executive Director, said: “The Breathe London partnership is breaking new ground. We’re developing new scientific approaches using the latest technologies to explore London’s air quality in unprecedented detail.

“This will provide information for both the public and decision makers that can help drive better solutions to a problem that effects every Londoner. The support of Mayor Khan, C40 Cities, CIFF and all the partners has been invaluable and together we hope to advance air quality management in London, the UK and cities worldwide.”

Breathe London will be followed in April by the launch of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London, 24/7, 365 days a year.  Vehicles will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles, £100 for buses, coaches and lorries) to travel within the zone.  

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 said: “The citizens of Paris, London and all the great cities of the world have a right to clean air to breathe. C40 is proud to support the efforts of Mayor Khan to better understand and map the air pollution across London.

“Cities around the world will be watching the results of this project very closely as we work together to clean the air that our citizens breathe and reduce the dangerous emissions that cause climate change.”

Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Google Earth Outreach said: "We are extremely excited to be part of the Air Quality in London project. We hope to help make air pollution information more accessible and useful, so that citizens and governments can use it to make decisions. Environmental air quality is an issue that affects everyone due to the potential health and environmental impacts it has.

Environmental issues have long been a priority for Google which we tackle daily with several teams such as the Google Earth Outreach who have been the key driver of this project for Google."

Sonia Medina, Executive Director for Climate Change at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation said: “Air quality affects everyone but the impacts are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable, especially children.  

“That is why CIFF is proud to support this world-leading project, which will help reveal the extent and sources of the problem, highlighting what needs to be done and where.”


Notes to Editors

  • Breathe London is the first initiative from the C40 Air Quality Network announced during Sadiq Khan’s visit to India in December 2017. The network is jointly chaired by London and Bengalaru.
  • More information about Breathe London and the latest air quality maps can be found at: www.breathelondon.org
  • Mope maps will come online in February at www.breathelondon.org/map
  • The Breathe London project has been collecting data since November 2018.
  • The project’s fixed air quality monitors will be owned and maintained by the Breathe London project through their partnership with Air Monitors Ltd.
  • Breathe London brings together some of the UK’s top health and scientific experts with leading technology companies and Environmental Defense Fund. Together, Breathe London partners have expertise in air quality measurement, technology design, atmospheric modelling, and civic engagement. They include Air Monitors Ltd., Google Earth Outreach, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, University of Cambridge and National Physical Laboratory. The project is funded by the Clean Air Fund at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and managed by C40 cities.
  • The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is an independent philanthropic organisation, headquartered in London with offices in Nairobi and New Delhi and a presence in Ethiopia. Established in 2003, CIFF works with a wide range of partners seeking to transform the lives of children and adolescents in developing countries. Areas of work include maternal and child health, adolescent sexual health, nutrition, education, deworming, tackling child slavery and exploitation, and supporting smart ways to slow down and stop climate change.
  • Google’s Street View cars comply to petrol Euro 5 emission standards and are therefore ULEZ compliant.
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