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AQMesh used to study air quality at schools in Newcastle

29-Mar-2023Networks | Schools | Smart citiesUK

AQMesh used to study air quality at schools in Newcastle

Researchers at Newcastle & Northumbria Universities have published the report on their study which used AQMesh to measure air quality around schools in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A network of 22 AQMesh pods was originally deployed in collaboration with Newcastle University and Newcastle City council to monitor air pollution outside schools near major traffic routes. The main objectives of the study were to determine levels of NO2, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 – and whether these exceeded the WHO guidelines – as well as estimate children’s exposure to harmful particles.

Data from the pods showed that several of the 12 schools in the study exceeded both WHO and UK air quality regulations for short-term NO2 and PM10 concentrations and all 12 schools exceeded the guidelines short-term PM2.5 exposure.

Other findings showed higher levels of all pollutants during the winter months compared to summer, and increases in NO2 concentrations during the typical morning and evening commuter traffic.

For full details of the findings please read the published report.

Clean Air Day 2021: Local authorities use AQMesh to study air quality on school streets

17-Jun-2021Clean Air Day | Local authorities | Schools | UrbanUK

Clean Air Day 2021: Local authorities use AQMesh to study air quality on school streets

AQMesh has partnered with Warwick District Council and Stratford District Council to install air quality monitoring pods at six local primary schools, as part of this year’s national Clean Air Day.

AQMesh loaned 10 of its air quality monitoring systems to two local councils to be installed at the entrances of five schools across Warwick and Leamington Spa, with a further two installed at a primary school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The data from the pods will be used to show how pollutant levels vary throughout the day and could encourage parents to use alternative methods of travelling to school instead of driving.

Led by Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day takes place in the UK each year to bring communities and organisations together to help raise awareness and improve public understanding of air pollution, what causes it, how harmful it is and what can be done to reduce it. This year’s Clean Air Day is Thursday 17th June and will be focused on pollution’s impact on children, with the campaign’s key message being ‘Let’s protect our children’s health from air pollution’.

Councillor Christopher Kettle, Community Protection Portfolio Holder at Stratford District Council, said: “Stratford District Council is committed to supporting national Clean Air Day on June 17 to improve, in particular, air quality around schools. School pick-up and drop-off are some of the busiest times for local traffic – leaving the car at home can cut congestion, improve air quality and improve health.” Whilst Councillor Judy Falp, Portfolio Holder for Health and Community Protection at Warwick District Council added: “Contrary to popular belief, switching off your engine does not use more fuel or cause issues with the engine. It’s important for us all to be consciously aware of the little changes we can make that will have a big impact on the air quality in Warwick district.”

Jon Queralt, Associate Headteacher of Emscote Infant School, who have one of the pods outside their main entrance, also says: “We hope this will encourage families to give the car a day off and to walk, cycle or scoot to school whenever possible. As an eco-school we have always focused on teaching the importance of being environmentally aware by encouraging the children to walk to school, turn off the tap, switch off the lights and recycle. By having the air monitor installed and explaining to the children how it can help us to look after our environment, we can start to make even bigger changes which we hope will lead to a better quality of life and health for our community as a whole.”

AQMesh has been used in a number of similar school studies over the years to raise awareness about the effects of pollution on children’s health, particularly on how harmful idling engines can be during school drop-off and collecting times. For example, four AQMesh pods are currently installed around schools in Kitchener, Canada: the results of the study will hopefully encourage more parents to walk or cycle to school, or turn to electric cars, and the City of Kitchener may also consider implementing new idling laws. 22 AQMesh pods are also deployed outside schools across Newcastle, UK, that are located next to major roads. Newcastle City Council want to raise awareness of air quality issues and encourage fewer car journeys to and from school.

Recently, 30 AQMesh pods were used to carry out a study of schools throughout London, UK, as part of the Mayor’s ‘Streetspace for London’ plan. Based on the approach used in the Breathe London pilot network, AQMesh pods were installed to investigate the benefits of a new ‘School Streets’ initiative. The plan involved monitoring pollutant levels where sections of roads would be closed at certain times of the school day and comparing them with the levels at sites where the roads were not closed. Data from the AQMesh pods demonstrated that road closures at some of the school sites contributed to a 34% reduction in nitric oxide (NO) and a 23% reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) during the morning drop-off period. The full report from that study can be found here.

In the UK alone it is estimated that poor air quality causes around 36,000 deaths each year, with that figure rising to seven million globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that pollution is the largest environmental health risk the population faces. Long-term exposure to NO2 can cause and worsen asthma, particularly in children, and fine particle matter (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs and reduce lung development and reduce function. AQMesh is committed to supporting initiatives around the world to help measure, manage and mitigate global air pollution and its impact on people’s – particularly children’s – health.

Amanda Billingsley, Managing Director of AQMesh comments: “An appreciation of how much air pollution varies around schools – over time and short distances – can help us protect children from the highest pollution in the short-term, while we all work to raise awareness of causes of pollution and how to improve air quality in the longer term. We hope that this practical project will have an impact in and around the schools involved while we continue to engage at a wider level with global projects and the sophisticated analysis required to fully understand local and regional air pollution and how to reduce exposure.”

AQMesh network will be installed for monitoring around Canadian schools

09-Jul-2020Networks | Schools | Smart cities | UrbanCanada

AQMesh network will be installed for monitoring around Canadian schools

The collaborative research project between the City of Kitchener, Wilfrid Laurier University and Hemmera Envirochem Inc aims to compare air pollution levels around some of the city’s schools throughout the academic year and quieter summer season, to assess how local pollution is affected by idling vehicles.

Leading the project is Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh, researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University, who received a $50,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to fund the installation of the AQMesh pods.

NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 are particularly harmful pollutants. Long-term exposure to NO2 can worsen asthma and reduce lung function. PM2.5 and PM10 are small airborne particles and are mostly formed in urban areas from vehicle fumes and construction equipment. PM2.5 particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and are linked to lung disease, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

This pollution is particularly dangerous for young people; studies show that exposure to PM2.5 can impair childhood lung development, and Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh expects the study to show that pollutant levels increase during the typical school pick up and drop off times.

“Studying air quality around schools is important, since students spend so much of their day there” she comments. “I was shocked to learn this region has just one provincial air monitoring station. We need more”

She added, “If we can provide data that shows an increase in pollutants during these times, it could help speed up the electrification of the transit system.”

It is possible that the results of the study would also encourage parents to walk or cycle to school, or turn to electric cars. The City of Kitchener may also consider implementing new idling laws to help reduce exposure to pollution.

Ultimately, Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh would like to create a large network of local monitoring stations with citizen scientists in order to generate real-time pollution maps, much like initiatives in other global cities such as the Breathe London network in the UK, which uses 100 AQMesh pods as part of its hyperlocal air quality monitoring network across the city.

The five AQMesh pods are being supplied and supported by North American AQMesh distributor, Ambilabs.

Air pollution to be monitored at 22 schools in Newcastle, UK

25-Nov-2019Networks | Schools | Smart citiesUK

Air pollution to be monitored at 22 schools in Newcastle, UK

A network of sensors has been set up in Newcastle in order to give policymakers a more accurate picture of the air being breathed by children.

The project is a collaboration with Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council who have installed 22 air pollution sensors outside schools that are located close to major roads.

The data will be collected by Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, the team will then use this information to help engage the children who are being directly affected and give them a voice as to how their cities should be planned in the future.

The Urban Observatory is the UK’s largest urban experiment collecting data about 60 different urban indicators, everything from energy use, rainfall and flooding to air pollution and traffic flow.

Currently, the Urban Observation has deployed over 3,600 sensors across Newcastle, including AQMesh air quality monitoring systems*, adding 5,000 new observations ever minute.

Eugene Milne, director of public health at Newcastle City Council said: ‘Poor air quality harms everybody’s health, and young people are among those most at risk, so we’re very pleased to be working with the University and young people across the city to address this.’

‘As well as raising awareness of the issues, the project will also aim to encourage more active travel and fewer car journeys, particularly on the school run.’

‘This project will help us to monitor just how much pollution is in the air around schools and enable us to get views of the children who are directly affected on what else could be done to tackle the problem.’

Sean Peacock, who is based in Newcastle University’s Open Lab has said: ‘Children themselves are far from oblivious to the impact that air pollution is having on their health and their futures.’

‘The school climate strike shows that young people are forcing air pollution and the climate crisis to the top of the political agenda.’

‘Urban planners and politicians are often hesitant to work with children, but they shouldn’t be.’

‘We need to embrace their creativity and passion to take radical action on air pollution and climate change. More, now than ever, we need the original ideas that only children can bring.’


All of the data is freely available at Newcastle University’s website: www.urbanobservatory.ac.uk, and is being used by researchers, local authorities, regulators, developers, town planners, businesses and members of the public.


*Original news published in September 2018.

AQMesh used by Glasgow schools aiming to reduce vehicle pollution

11-Jul-2019Schools | TrafficUK

AQMesh used by Glasgow schools aiming to reduce vehicle pollution

Schools near Glasgow have been monitoring air quality as part of a project aiming to reduce the levels of pollution emitted by vehicles as they drop off and collect children. The project is part of a ‘Beat the Street’ initiative that was granted £50,000 from a new £1million fund to increase walking, cycling and sustainable travel in Scotland. The overall aim is to cut Scotland’s carbon emissions, improve air quality, reverse the trend towards sedentary lifestyles and tackle health inequalities.

The Environmental Health department of East Renfrewshire Council supplied and installed the three AQMesh air quality monitoring pods that were utilised in the project. The monitoring activity followed initiatives in eight schools organised with SEPA, in which the children designed their own air quality banners as part of a competition.

The banners were then placed outside the schools which were then monitored for two weeks with an AQMesh pod measuring a variety of parameters including nitrogen dioxide – one of the pollutants of greatest concern. The Council’s Richard Mowat said: “We used one of our own AQMesh pods and rented the other two from Air Monitors. The pods are small and easy to install so we were able to locate them close to the areas most affected by parents’ vehicles.

“The results clearly showed significant peaks in pollution during the drop-off periods and it was pleasing to note how well the project was received. We hope that this work will help educate the children and that they, in turn, will encourage their parents to leave the cars at home and walk whenever possible.”

Anne-Marie Absolom is Head Teacher at one of the participating schools – St Clares Primary School. She said: “Our Junior Road Safety Officers, and all of the school staff, are delighted that we have had the opportunity to install temporary air quality monitors in our car park.

“We have been campaigning throughout the year to improve air quality in and around our school. The children have also been learning about the small changes that they can make – changes that will make a big difference to the quality of the air we breathe.

“The results from the monitors have highlighted the specific times of day at which air pollution is most significant, and the Junior Road Safety Officers are now campaigning at these times. The data gathered has been shared with all children in the school and they are passionate about spreading the word and ensuring that air pollution is reduced.”

As well as supplying the monitoring equipment for the project, Air Monitors also provided sponsorship funds for the school banners, and this was reflected in a stunning night-time time display on the roof of Glasgow’s famous SEC Armadillo, organised by SEPA. A variety of images relating to air quality were projected on to the Armadillo’s roof, highlighting for example Clean Air Day 2019, as well as the Air Monitors logo.

SEPA’s Dr Colin Gillespie said: “It has been great to work again with Air Monitors and the councils, raising awareness in air quality around schools, promoting active changes to reduce pollution and encouraging pupils to think about more sustainable forms of travel.”

AQMesh used by Guardian journalists in the UK to highlight air quality risks in London

20-Jun-2019Schools | Smart cities | UrbanUK

AQMesh used by Guardian journalists in the UK to highlight air quality risks in London

Supporting the aims of Clean Air Day today, 20th June 2019, the Guardian has published a short film demonstrating the changing levels of pollution that children are exposed to as they walk to school in London. The film can be viewed here.

The Guardian Cities team worked closely with their colleagues in multimedia to create a film showing real-time air quality data as a mother takes her young children to school in north London. The video features mother-of-two Natasa pushing a pram and walking her daughter along Marylebone Road, with a Particles Plus instrument attached to the pram and an AQMesh pod on her daughter’s backpack.

The most important air quality parameters are displayed on-screen during the walk, with data including PM10, PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The film producers have cleverly integrated the European yearly mean limits for these parameters into the display, with readings changing from blue to red when they exceed the limit, (which for PM10 and NO2 was most of the time!).

Documentary producer Anetta Jones, said: “Air quality is a vitally important issue for the health and wellbeing of city dwellers, but the main pollution threats are invisible, so we hope that initiatives such as this will help residents and visitors to better understand the threat that they face.”

The monitoring equipment was supplied by Air Monitors Limited. Their David Green said: “We have recently installed large numbers of AQMesh pods all over London as part of the Breathe London project, and data from these pods will be displayed on the project website. However, video is an enormously popular medium, and it is really exciting to see what can be achieved when the latest technologies in multimedia and air quality monitoring combine.”

AQMesh used to measure local air quality at Surrey school

12-Sep-2017Schools | Smart cities | UrbanUK

AQMesh used to measure local air quality at Surrey school

Cleves School in Weybridge, Surrey (UK) has used AQMesh to measure pollution at the primary school’s entrance. The project, led by Dr. Edward Salter over the school’s summer term, aimed to understand exposure of the children (aged 7-11) to dangerous pollutant gases, with particular interest in the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3).

Initial findings showed that levels of O3 exceeded 100µg/m3 on several occasions during the high temperatures in June, and a daily pattern of gas peaks coinciding with school pick-up and drop-off was noticeable for nitric oxide (NO). NO2 levels increased later in the day both as a result of oxidation of school-related NO and from general traffic locally, with elevated levels of NO2 up to the end of the evening commute, probably from traffic on local and major roads nearby. The monitoring also showed 15-30 minute spikes from diesel buses or cars parked very early in the morning or late at night with their engines running constantly, as well as from local events at the weekend, when the air quality is otherwise generally seen to improve considerably.

The project set out to determine whether pollution peaked at school drop-off and pick-up times in order to encourage cleaner methods of getting to and from school, after a transport assessment for the expansion of the school highlighted that traffic peaked around 8.30am and 3.15pm for approximately 30 minutes. The school is reviewing findings and will consider a number of mitigation measures, including timing exercise sessions for periods of lower pollution.

AQMesh monitors were installed to monitor NO, NO2, NOx and O3 at each school gate during these peak traffic periods. “There is clearly an effect between pollution levels and travelling to school by car. If I were to do this again I would ask to monitor to additional gases, VOCs and particulates”, said Dr. Edward Salter. AQMesh can currently measure PM1, PM2.5, PM10, CO and SO2, as well as the three gases in this study, and options for H2S and CO2 are due to be released by the end of 2017.

“The AQMesh pods were simple enough for the school to handle, which is not true of all such equipment”, added Dr. Salter.

AQMesh was designed to offer a robust and easy-to-use air quality monitoring system that can deliver localised real-time readings, improving the accuracy and scope of gathering air quality data in order to support initiatives to reduce air pollution and its risk to human health.

AQMesh has been used in various education-related projects globally. At the simplest level AQMesh offers an accessible way for schoolchildren to engage with local air quality issues. Used in conjunction with wind speed and direction information, local real-time data from AQMesh can be used to distinguish between local sources of pollution, which can be managed, and more distant sources of pollution which require a different approach. AQMesh data can also be used to improve the accuracy of air quality models at the local level.