Air pollution kills 28,000 people every year in the UK. But the solution might lie in a hi-tech tower that sucks up harmful particles

High in the skies over London, the UK’s first air pollution monitoring squad have been using the latest sensors to chart the levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide in our atmosphere. The team is highly trained, each equipped with a hi-tech backpack, and proficient in social media. Which all sounds relatively standard, apart from the fact that it is entirely made up of pigeons.

Using one of the UK’s best-known feathered friends as a publicity stunt for air pollution awareness was the brainchild of Plume Labs, which has created an app for monitoring pollution on the go. It follows on the heels of similar apps released in the past two years, ranging from UCLA’s AirForU to BreezoMeter, the brainchild of Israeli engineer Ran Korber, who was looking to buy a house for his family far away from polluted environments.

Air pollution is becoming big business – and not without cause. The World Health Organisation estimates it is responsible for 2m deaths worldwide every year28,000 in the UK alone. Gases such as sulphur and nitrogen dioxide have been heavily linked to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, while ozone, formed when sunlight reacts with a cocktail of other gaseous pollutants, is toxic in the lower atmosphere. Levels of nitrogen dioxide continue to soar in London, regularly reaching more than three and half times European Union limits.

The aim of many pollution-monitoring devices is to detect sudden short-term spikes, which can have drastic health effects, exacerbating underlying conditions and leading to acute strokes and heart problems. In January this year, a spike of PM2.5 pollution, microscopic soot particles which are 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, reached dangerously high levels in Upper Thames Street, London. PM2.5 pollution occurs largely due to diesel engines and coal-burning power stations, and while the legal limit in Europe is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, levels can reach 50 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24-hour period in parts of central London, raising stroke risks by 5% for everyone living in those areas.

Read more/Lire la suite : How a giant air freshener could save our polluted cities | Environment | The Guardian

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