What is Breathe London?

Breathe London combines state-of-the-art technology with new data analytics to provide Londoners with a hyperlocal visual tool displaying their exposure to air pollution around the city. Measuring harmful pollution at thousands of locations informs data-driven solutions to clean up our dirty air and foster healthier, stronger communities.

Pioneering sensor technology

London has one of the world’s best air quality monitoring systems, but there’s still a lot it can’t tell us. That’s why Breathe London is pioneering cutting-edge sensor technology and research with three complementary projects to understand what’s happening at the ground-level in some of the worst affected areas throughout the city.

Project #1: Breathe London installed a network of 100 state-of-the-art sensor pods on lampposts and buildings throughout the city, continuously transmitting air quality measurements.

Project #2: Specially equipped Google Street View cars are using mobile sensors to measure air pollution on a variety of London roadways, taking readings approximately every 30-60 metres in representative areas of the city.

Project #3: In a linked study funded by the Greater London Authority, King’s College London is using wearable sensors that will allow schoolchildren and teachers to monitor air quality during their journey to and from school. This project will help researchers better characterize how individuals are affected by air pollution in everyday life indoors, outdoors and while travelling.

Together, these measurements will paint a clearer picture of air quality across the city. This new deployment of air quality sensors is the most advanced system of its kind and a model for cities around the globe. This project will create a picture over the course of a year, identifying pollution ‘hotspots’ that the existing network of fixed monitors cannot currently capture.

Real-time maps

Millions of Londoners face health threats every day because of air pollution. Many areas of the capital regularly break limits for safe air quality. Scientists estimate that thousands of Londoners’ lives end sooner than they should each year because of unclean air. The cost of dirty air on the London economy has been estimated at £3.7 billion every year, due to the health impact of PM₂.₅ and NO₂ leading to lost life-years, hospital admissions and deaths.

Eventually, online maps showing real-time data will give Londoners continuously updated information on the air pollution they’re breathing as they move around their city. Breathe London will improve the accuracy of air pollution forecasts for the coming three days, making it easier for people to plan for poor air quality episodes.

Breathe London will collect millions of data points at locations across Greater London on nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, small particles (PM₁₀, PM₂.₅, PM₁ and ultrafine), painting a richer and more complete picture of air quality with a much higher degree of spatial resolution.

Our goal

With a more accurate and more widely understood picture of the problem, tailored solutions to air pollution can be introduced which are easier to deliver. By helping to identify areas of London where stronger forms of intervention are justified by robust scientific evidence, we will give policymakers the evidence, and generate the local support they need to address the problem.

Breathe London is a year-long, multi partner project funded by C40 cities and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, managed by Environmental Defense Fund Europe registered charity (charity number 1164661).

Policy impacts

Breathe London’s hyperlocal air quality data collection system focuses on Greater London, including locations with existing policies:

  • Introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in April 2019
  • Application of ULEZ standards in the current Low Emission Zone to buses, coaches and lorries from October 2020.
  • Air quality plans to help schools in the most polluted areas reduce their pupils’ exposure to hazardous pollution.
  • Planning policy to ensure new schools and other buildings used by vulnerable populations are not located in areas of poor air quality.
  • Efforts to enforce controls on air pollution from construction machinery and other sources.
  • Sign up to our newsletter