London schools trial backpacks with air quality monitoring sensors

The pollution levels of childrens’ journeys to and from their schools will be analysed

A total of 250 primary school kids in London are to carry special backpacks with air quality sensors to track the pollution levels on their journeys to and from their schools.

Five primary schools in Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Richmond and Southwark are taking part in the project, believed to be the world’s largest ever study of its kind.

The sensors, weighing just over 1kg, fit into lightweight bags and measure levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Scientists at King’s College London will analyse the data from the study to find out which point of the journey to school or which part of their school day the children are most exposed to pollution.

They will also be able to compare the exposure of children who take similar journeys but different routes and travel modes and then make recommendations of how the exposure can be reduced.

The wearable sensors, developed by Dyson, are the latest stage of the Breathe London project aimed at creating the “most comprehensive” air quality monitoring network of its kind in the world, which includes more than 100 fixed monitors and the deployment of air quality monitoring cars on the streets of London.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan launched the project this morning at Haimo Primary School in Greenwich, which has already started implementing recommendations to improve air quality by providing Walking Route Maps and delivering energy efficiency measures.

He said: “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.

“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. 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.”

Kate Barnes, Head Teacher at Haimo Primary School added the pupils have successfully campaigned for Haimo Road to be closed both at the start and end of the school day.

She said: “Our focus on air quality has developed their understanding of social responsibility, not only for themselves but for future generations.

“We intend to use our grant money to implement further projects for our children to lead on. This includes creating a green space and purchasing bike sheds. Our children will develop the skills and knowledge that will provide them with opportunities throughout their lives to take on active roles and be inspired to become leaders of the future.

“Haimo children are very excited to be taking part in Breathe London Wearable Study and believe that this is a great way to audit the air quality and further develop the engagement and responsibility of the youngest members of our society.”

The project, devised by London City Hall and C40 Cities, is being delivered by a consortium led by the Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and mostly funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Latest Podcast