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King's study reveals how we can reduce exposure to air pollution in our daily commute


King's Colllege London in partnership with the Northbank Business Improvement District conducted a study which looked at exposure to air pollution for different types of workers commuting in and out of the Northbank area in central London. 

Funded by the Mayor of London's Air Quality Fund, the study is the first of its kind using recently developed portable monitoring equipment. Over two weeks, the study followed the personal commutes of eight professionals, over two weeks, in and around Trafalgar Square, through to the Strand and the Aldwych area. For the first week participants took their usual route to and from work and in the second, they changed their route or mode of travel, all the while wearing portable monitoring equipment to track their exposures to harmful air pllutants. 

In each case, the study identified that making small adjustments led to an overall reduction in exposure to air pollution of between 25% and 90%. One of the largest differences came from switching transport from using the Underground network to over ground means such as trains, buses or cycling. 

Lead author on the study, Andrew Grieve from the Environmental Research Group at King's College London, said:

"For many people, their daily commute can account for their highest exposure to air pollution in the day. Finding ways to reduce this, even by a little, can, over the long-term, contribute to healthier lives. Each of the participants in the study discovered an alternate route or mode of transport that reduced their commuting exposure, some by over 50%, with over ground train coming out as one of the least polluted ways to travel.

"This study shows that, whilst it is important for government to continue efforts to reduce pollution, there are small actions we can take in our daily routines to reduce our exposure.”

Ruth Duston, Chief Executive of The Northbank BID, who commissioned the study said:

“We fully support the Mayor’s drive to tackle pollution and are grateful for the backing from the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund which has made this study possible. Improving air quality is a key priority for us to create a clean, safe and pleasant environment for the 14 million visitors the Northbank gets each year and the 26,000 students and 20,000 workers who use the area each day.

“The Northbank is an important transport node, well served by buses, trains and the Underground network and therefore offers great choice for commuters. However, through our programme devoted to improving local air quality, we are seeking to introduce more walking and cycling routes, and to encourage more sustainable and environmentally-friendly transport solutions.”

The report Personal Exposure and Air Quality in the Northbank is available at the Northbank BID's website


The Environmental Research Group is a leading provider of air quality information and research in the UK. The group combines air pollution science, toxicology and epidemiology to determine the impacts of air pollution on health and the causal factors. They work closely with those responsible for air quality management such as local authorities to support policies and actions to minimise air pollution health effects. In 1993, the first regional monitoring network, London Air was formed to coordinate and improve air pollution monitoring in London. 

The Environmental Research Group has also worked with Northbank BID to develop the Clean Air Routes Finder app, which maps out low pollution routes through the Northbank aera and helps people access quieter backstreets and alternative routes through central London.