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How Air Quality Modelling Highlighted Pollution at Schools for Clean Air Day

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Clean Air Day 2021

This year’s Clean Air Day saw hundreds of businesses, individuals and local authorities get together to raise awareness for this year’s theme ‘Protecting Children’s Future from Air Pollution’.

Clean Air Day saw people taking part by making pledges to cycle or walk to their destinations instead of using polluting vehicles, heard from businesses who shared their work surrounding sustainability and clean air, saw schools getting pupils involved in Clean Air Day activities and much more!

We were delighted to take part in Clean Air Day by partnering with the founding charity, Global Action Plan, who made use of our MappAir® modelled air quality data to investigate which schools around the UK are located in areas above World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines. We’ll get to more about the study shortly.

MappAir®: The Technology

air quality model
MappAir® city model

MappAir® is our air quality model which helps to visualise air pollutants from a national scale right down to busy junctions. The model uses a combination of an advanced modelling technique, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), to model the flow and dispersion of air and inputs from a variety of sources including traffic and weather data, government reference site information and Zephyr® measurements.

Using this cloud-based information, we’re able to provide the most up to date and detailed view of air pollution on a city, national and global resolution which can also be integrated with existing systems via an API.

MappAir® is available with up to 3-day pollution forecasting and historical emissions data. The forecast feature of the model helps to identify pollution levels in advance, allowing for upcoming planning and mitigations to be put in place ahead of days likely to experience elevated levels of air pollution. Historic air quality data can be utilised to better understand previous pollution levels, patterns, and trends in air quality to help to identify the effect of pollution initiatives and future strategies.

Using MappAir® to Investigate Children’s Exposure to Pollution

For Clean Air Day, we worked with Global Action Plan who used MappAir® data to investigate the number of children around the UK that attend schools in areas that experienced elevated levels of air pollution. To do this, the charity supplied us with longitude and latitude coordinates which we used to extract data from our MappAir® national annual average dataset taken from 2019.

global action plan clean air day

Using this information, we were able to pinpoint school locations and identify the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5). This study was heavily reported in the press, including in The Guardian and local press across England. We found that over a quarter of pupils across the UK, an estimated 3.4 million children, attend schools in areas air pollution is above the recommended WHO guidelines.

We also discovered that of the 7,852 schools across the UK with levels above the WHO PM2.5 thresholds, 98% (7692) are located in England. Of the total calculated by Global Action Plan, it was found that the following postcode regions have the below percentage of its schools in locations above WHO guidelines:

  • East Midlands has 9% (668) of its schools in areas above WHO guidelines – 240 in Leicester and 131 in Nottinghamshire postcodes

  • East of England has 12% (964) of its schools in areas above WHO guidelines – 225 in Ipswich, 189 in Colchester and 180 in Southend-on-Sea postcodes

  • London has 25% (1973) of its schools in areas above WHO guidelines - 158 in Lambeth and Southwark, 146 in Romford, 129 in Croydon, 119 in Twickenham and 95 in Ilford postcodes

  • North West has 9% (687) – 293 in Manchester postcodes

  • South East has 28% (2181) – 292 in Portsmouth and 209 in Southampton postcodes

  • South West has 6% (470) - 269 in Bristol postcodes, 111 in Bournemouth postcode, 57 in Bath postcode

  • West Midlands 1% (60) - 46 in Birmingham postcodes

  • Yorkshire and the Humber 9% (684) - 227 in Sheffield postcodes, 122 in Leeds postcodes, 81 in York postcodes

Working on this study with Global Action Plan allowed us to provide evidence for the locations around the UK which may need to encourage further action on finding ways to reduce air pollution levels. Children are at increased risk of suffering the impacts of air quality, so it’s essential that steps are taken to protect their futures.

Using MappAir® in Real Life Applications to Make a Difference

Air quality modelling technologies are of real value when it comes to making a difference in air pollution concentrations. We’ve seen this in some of the partnerships we’ve established over the years.

clinitouch vie

For example, we’ve teamed up with Spirit Digital who use our MappAir® model integrated with their CliniTouch Vie platform to communicate local air pollution concentrations to healthcare patients. Using this information, individuals can use their air quality data to make informed decisions on how best to manage symptoms of their health conditions like asthma and COPD so they can choose to avoid walking through an area with high levels of pollution.

We’re also in partnership with environmental consultants, Future Climate Info (FCI) who make use of our annual modelling data to deliver NO2 and PM2.5 information to solicitors and home buyers via environmental reports. By integrating MappAir® data with the reports, solicitors are able to give home buyers information about the levels of pollution at prospective homes, providing an understanding of the potential risks of air pollution when purchasing a new property.

When using our complete service and Zephyr® subscription, MappAir® can also be used to gain insight into the levels of air pollution at locations without monitors. A great example of this is our work with Leicester City Council, who used the service to better understand domestic burning emissions throughout Leicester. By using a combination of the MappAir® city model and a network of Zephyr® monitors, the Council identified PM2.5 emissions within the city. With these data, we provided Leicester City Council with a solution designed to deliver guidance about days likely to experience high pollution levels to members of the public. This could then be used for behavioural changes for personal and community benefit.

For more information about the MappAir® air quality model…



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