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EarthSense and Sandwell MB Council Monitor Air Quality to Encourage Behavioural Change

EarthSense, the air quality specialist, is working with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council which is using Zephyr® air quality monitors and a public data portal to empower faith leaders and communities to learn about air pollution and how to minimise personal exposure.

myair air quality portal
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council introduce its public air quality portal at Smethwick Jamia Mosque

Following the challenge of improving air quality in Sandwell, and after receiving an Air Quality Grant from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2021, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council is using eight EarthSense Zephyr® air quality monitors, its MappAir® pollution model and MyAir® public portal to deliver live air pollution data to faith centres and their communities. The services are being used by faith leaders to raise public awareness of air pollution in Sandwell and demonstrate how people can adjust their everyday behaviour to improve local levels.

Supplied by EarthSense’s distributor for UK local authorities, Enviro Technology Services (ET), the Zephyr® monitors have been installed at eight different faith centres across the borough. These include the Parish Church of St Francis Assisi in Wednesbury, Hindu Temple Shree Pashupatinath Mandir (Shani Dham) in Rowley Regis, Yemeni Community Association in West Bromwich, Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick and four others. The council is also using an additional fifteen Zephyr® units for monitoring air quality in other areas across Sandwell in a separate project.

Measured and modelled data for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can be viewed collectively through the EarthSense MyAir® public portal, which is being displayed on screens inside the main areas at each faith centre. Air pollution data can be accessed by faith communities and the wider public through computers, tablets, or smartphones, enabling individuals to identify areas of pollution and personal exposure across Sandwell.

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has also developed a toolkit for faith leaders that provides information about indoor and outdoor air pollution, information for local businesses, methods of community engagement, and more. By using EarthSense’s services, the toolkit and council air pollution officers, the council is helping faith groups to find pollution-based interventions which empower their communities to reduce local air pollution concentrations.

Paul Fisher, Deputy Director Public Health at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council said: “We know air pollution is an environmental and health crisis which has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable in society, including children and the elderly. Yet air quality is often an invisible issue, and its impacts are often not well understood by those in our local communities. The Zephyr® air quality monitors and the MyAir® public portal are proving to be essential tools in helping us to make this significant threat to health visible.”

Fisher continued: “To support the information provided through the MyAir® public portal, Sandwell’s Air Quality Officers have also been busy delivering air quality talks to faith centres and encouraging faith leaders and their congregations to take steps to reduce their impact and as well as encouraging others to do the same. We have already seen many positive actions including tree planting, car free days, anti-idling campaigns as well as the adoption of energy reduction measures in their centres and homes.”

After the first twelve months of the project, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council will use EarthSense’s reporting service to enable faith leaders to report their findings, which will be discussed at a conference. The reports will include insight into weekly, monthly, and quarterly averages of NO2, PM2.5 and PM10, exceedances above national air quality objectives, and days and times with the highest and lowest levels of pollution on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. It will also include meteorological data to assist with the interpretation of the results.

EarthSense Managing Director, Tom Hall said: “Working with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council to provide faith leaders with usable air quality data will be extremely valuable for generating community-driven changes. Sandwell is a multi-cultural and multi-faith borough and by using our services, the council and communities can tackle the disproportionate correlation between ethnicity and air pollution exposure by raising awareness and encouraging healthier daily decisions.

Hall continued: “The second year of the project is going to see Zephyr® monitors relocated to a further eight faith centres. Following this, faith leaders involved will meet with the previous year’s participants to share experiences and write another report on the outcome for their communities.”

EarthSense’s Zephyr® monitors take live measurements of harmful gases and particulates in the air, such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10). Pollution measurements are supplemented by MappAir® modelling data, which provides context for locations where monitors have not been deployed. Air quality data can be accessed, analysed, and downloaded through MyAir®, which is available for businesses and local authorities to deliver live portals for the public to understand air quality in their area.

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