Within London, air quality has been a persistent and growing concern. Accurate measurement is vital to track changes over time, to analyse whether the air that we breathe day in, day out is getting better or worse, and to make action plans for the areas worst affected. Yet Bromley Council has just one working air quality monitor and take a reading just once a year. To counter this lack of monitoring, Bromley Liberal Democrats have set up a network of air quality monitors to measure air quality across the borough 24 hours a day.
"We've all been aware of the reduced pollution during lockdown," said LibDem spokesperson Julie Ireland. "It's vital that we measure the change in air quality as lockdown restrictions ease so we can be quick to identify pollution hotspots."
Data indicates that 40,000 premature deaths are caused by poor air quality and air pollution with further indirect impact with higher rates of asthma and other respiratory problems. This hurts communities and causes stress for parents and children. Many councils are therefore taking steps to improve and monitor the air quality in their borough by delivering detailed plans of action, such as those in Sutton.
In Bromley there is only ONE working air quality monitor installed permanently across the entire borough, situated in Bromley town centre. Up until April 2020 this was checked just once a year. However since setting up our network of monitors we learned the good news that this single monitor is now checked continuously - see extra details below.
Bromley Council are doing the absolute minimum and this is completely inadequate. The concept that they carry out "rigorous assessment of local air quality" as stated on the council website is disingenous at best. Not only are emissions subject to fluctuations based on the weather, season and traffic levels on any given day, Bromley is also the largest London borough by area with very different characteristics; measurements taken in Penge will not be relevant in Orpington. The reading for this year will also be completely unrepresentative, having been taken in the middle of an unprecedented lockdown.
A year ago, Bromley Lib Dems committed to siting air quality monitors across the borough, and despite delays caused by the coronavirus emergency, that project has now gone live with 5 monitors in place and plans for another 5 to be operational in the next 6 months. These 5 air quality monitors (AQMs) measure the concentration of particulate matter of two classifications - PM10 and PM2.5. These particles come from a variety of sources, but most form in the atmosphere as a result of chemical reactions of pollutants from power plants, industry and vehicles. These particles, particularly PM2.5, are known to be harmful to human health and those with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by exposure.
The measurements for AQMs are done every few minutes and can be found online here and here. You can see our data live at: https://www.bromleylibdems.org.uk/air_quality_monitoring_data
We'll be periodically comparing our collected data to the World Heath Organisation (WHO) guidelines for particulate readings and Bromley Council's own readings. It is important that you are aware of the impact that air pollution has on you, your family and your local community. We will be continually pushing councillors to take more action on air quality; both through improving measurement methods and delivering practical action plans to tackle this crisis.
If you're interested in getting involved with our measurement by installing a monitor, contact us here.
Monitoring by Bromley Council
As mentioned above, the single air quality monitor is located at Harwood Avenue near Bromley South. Up until April 2020 readings were taken only once a year, but we were pleased to see that that has now changed. Data can be viewed here - this graph shows the 10 years of inactivity between it being turned off and then turned on again.
Sadly, as at 1 July 2020 the device seems to be experiencing initial teething problems which hopefully Bromley Council will manage to resolve soon. The data is shown to be preliminary, as the sensor has not yet been calibrated - this is evidenced as some of the data they are reporting are negative values at times. In addition for some days in June only night time data was reported (1700 ish to 0945 ish, varying day to day). This may be caused by the machine having a fault - it is covered in a lot of foliage and is behind a wall so may be overheating.