Portable air quality monitoring devices help authority understand air pollution

Councillors in one UK district are championing the use of a new government-funded tech in monitoring and managing air quality.

A new portable device employed by policymakers in Cherwell, Oxford, has helped the local authority adapt and develop its air pollution monitoring capacity, essentially allowing hotspots to be focused on, even when no permanent measuring infrastructure is in place. 

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The district is home to areas with wildly varying air quality situations. For example, three of the four air quality management zones were reporting stable nitrogen oxide levels below current UK government limits in 2021. Elsewhere, in the same time period, Hennef Way, Banbury saw illegally high levels, a direct impact of this being where a route to the M40 motorway is located. 

Additionally, Horsefair and North Bar, both of which are also in Banbury, and Bicester Road Kidlington, saw pollutant levels rise significantly compared with 2020, albeit that year measurements were skewed due to stay-at-home notices amid the height of the pandemic. 

‘We are very keen to see levels decrease further but also to see whether we can monitor in areas where members of the public have particular concerns, and that will perhaps enable us to see the impacts of development,’ said Cllr Dan Sames, Cherwell’s portfolio holder for cleaner and greener communities. 

Elsewhere in the UK, the city of York is rolling out a new high tech system for monitoring its air pollution levels. So-called ‘intelligent data hubs’ will provide real time information on conditions, and allow for instant pro-active decisions to be made in a bid to tackle congestion, and reduce levels. Find out more here

Image: Matt Boitor




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1 year ago

Presumably this portable device only monitors NO2? Fine particulate levels can vary considerably in different parts of a town, from street to street even. Sites such as can give misleasding results if the level they tell you applies to the more general area where you live and not the specific street, even when you put in your actual post code. I’ve tried this using several different post codes for friends and family in the same town and the levels they gave us didn’t match our real AQ experiences in those areas. Nor did they agree with other handheld devices we tried. I think the problem is that some towns do not have any real AQ monitoring carried out on the spot, street by street, by their local councils (which si undedrstandable, too expensive probably). So where the reported levels, for single streets, come from remains a mystery to me. I think we should all ask our local authorities exactly what they are measuring, if anything, and where.

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