Community Air Pollution Monitoring

An Environment project United Kingdom

Air pollution is a silent killer. Help us create an Air Pollution Map and Equipment Library to enable community monitoring across the UK.

They did it!

On 14th Jan 2016 we successfully raised


of £35,000 target

26 backers


56 days

Project owner

Let's create a Community Air Pollution Monitoring Map and Equipment library!

Join the mission for cleaner air in our communities

Air pollution is much more serious than many of us realise. In London alone, nitrogen dioxide and fine dust particles (known as PM2.5s) were linked to over 9000 deaths last year. Across the UK, this figure rises to 60,000. At a global level, we're talking about 7 million estimated deaths in 2012. If we want to take action to help protect ourselves and our families, we need to collect scientific evidence about the scale of the problem in our local areas.

Mapping for Change is a social enterprise based at University College London, though we operate independently. Since 2008, we have supported community groups to measure and map air quality in over 1400 locations across London. You can view the results here.

We want to expand our work to empower community groups across the UK to measure air pollution in their neighbourhoods. We can help them by providing the materials, skills and expertise to undertake monitoring in their streets, schools and places of work. Our aim is to create a national equipment library of high grade air quality measurement instruments that we can loan to communities. Together we can create an air quality map with real measurements that highlights the situation in the places that matter to you. 

Many low cost sensors are now being developed and promoted. Unfortunately, many are not yet reliable enough. They do not provide accurate measurements that can be compared with official monitoring data or government standards (which are the same across the EU, so they are known as EU standards). We want to ensure that measurements collected by communities can be compared meaningfully to official figures and to legal limits. 

Your donations will enable us to:

  • purchase monitoring materials including diffusion tubes and particulate monitors
  • loan these out to communities to make their own measurements
  • provide support and guidance to community groups to do this work
  • process, analyse and visualise results
  • empower communities to take action and reduce their personal exposure

Our tried and tested approach has received significant attention:

‘The project that MfC has run with people at the Barbican and the City of London is the best project of the kind that I have seen. It really is a masterpiece of engagement, and a very successful model for others to follow.’

Simon Birkett, Clean Air in London

Our work has been featured in all these places (click on each to read article)

What are we measuring?

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): a gas that is part of vehicle exhaust fumes. NO2 is invisible and odourless, but responsible for airway inflammation and respiratory problems. In London, it has been linked to over 9000 deaths per year.

Particulate matter (PM): tiny dust particles made up of material ranging from carbon soot to toxic compounds and heavy metals from cars, buses and lorries, and from factories and farming. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate the blood and get deep into the lungs. PM has been linked to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, DNA mutations and premature death. Research has also shown that exposure to even low levels of PM2.5s during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of babies being born small.

How does it work?

We use simple and reliable equipment that enables community members of all ages and abilities to participate

To monitor Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), we use small plastic diffusion tubes. These are installed at key destinations: to lampposts outside schools, in parks or alongside major roads.




 The tubes work through a process called molecular diffusion, where NO2 moves from areas with a high concentration (the air), to a lower concentration (the tube). Each tube has an "absorbent end", where compounds are absorbed from the air. It's a bit of chemical that is smeared on the rubber at the top. 

At the end of the monitoring period, the tubes are sent to a laboratory for scientific analysis. Information is returned in the form of micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) for the period, so it's the average exposure over the period. These results can then be compared with nationwide averages and EU limits.

To monitor Particulates (PM10 and PM2.5s), we will use hand-held monitoring devices. These are simple to operate, you simply walk with the monitor in the area you wish to monitor, and are provided with a reading of PM2.5s.

With your help:

£25k will enable us to support 100 communities to measure nitrogen dioxide!

£35k will enable us to add to this by providing high-grade particulate monitors!

If we exceed our initial target then:

£50k will enable us to add a black carbon monitor to the equipment library. A black carbon monitor will allow the communities that use it to understand the particulate matter that come from diesel sources. 

£100k will enable us to add all the above to the equipment library, and double the number of communities involved!



Every donation will contribute to building a high-grade monitoring equipment library which can be loaned out to UK communities.

To ensure your community receives monitoring equipment and support, a minimum overall donation of £250 is required. This can be made up of multiple smaller pledges, each with the #postcode district (e.g. #SE25 or #OX49). This # is essential for us to ensure there is sufficient backing in your location. If your community does not reach the £250 target, you will still contribute to the equipment library, from which you will be able to borrow.


About the team

We are small (but perfectly formed) team with a shared passion for community-led environmental action.


Since 2009, we have delivered over 30 projects in many communities, directly engaging more than 5,000 people and reaching far more online and indirectly. We can deliver on projects that we committed to deliver - but we need your support to make it happen! 

We have worked on a diverse range of issues including air pollution, noise pollution, and accessible urban environments, amongst many more. Our projects have increased community engagement in local issues, led to meaningful actions from local authorities and other organisations that provide services to communities, and stimulated wider awareness along with policy debate and action.

IT WORKS! We've already supported communities to monitor over 1400 places across London

The results have been shocking: 59% of locations have recorded measurements that exceed the governmental annual limits for nitrogen dioxide. In 75 sites the levels recorded were more than double the legal limit.

This is why it is so vitally important that even more communities have the tools to collect information about their local air quality.

For more evidence from the people that worked with us, see the videos below:

(click on each picture above to view the video)


Photo credit: I Like Clean Air 2015