Managing the network:
The London Air website is a live show. Instruments across London collect millions of measurements every week and our job is to ensure their accuracy and map them every hour. Operationally, it’s a challenge as there are instruments on London’s street corners, by schools and parks.
The data collected by the instruments is automatically updated on the website every hour, but the management of the system is happening remotely.
Our field work is our next challenge. It is essential to check on the instruments as much as weekly to monthly. They are precise pieces of scientific kit that degrade as they sample our polluted air so we need to make sure they are in proper working order. While lockdown persists, we are doing our best to change the way we run our instrumentation so they can run without maintenance for as long as possible.
How does air pollution impact our health?
Air pollution is a known cause of ill health. Under normal times, breathing polluted day in day out can shorten your life. It can restrict the development of children’s lungs, trigger cardiac arrests and asthma attacks, and may even be a cause of dementia.
We are all staying in to “flatten the curve”; cutting the peak COVID-19 demand on health services. A recent article in the British Medical Journal also urges us to “lower the baseline”; reducing other demands on health systems to allow resources to be focused on the epidemic. Air pollution might have an important role to play in this.
There is still much work to be done to explore whether dirty air has an impact. In the meantime, air pollution data has been deemed an essential evidence resource in the management of the COVID situation and the data that we are collecting now will be input into a whole range of studies over the coming months.