Air Quality Project
Working in partnership with the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, the Heath & Hampstead Society, and the borough of Camden, Green School Runs is gathering new data on levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in ten locations in Hampstead. The project 'Air Quality' got under way with the installation of the first diffusion tubes on 27 September 2021. We will compare the results with those of a similar project in 2015. The level of NO2 that we found in 2015 was surprisingly high for leafy Hampstead and inspired some of the policies in the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan, which was approved by residents in a public referendum in 2018.
A dozen of volunteers are helping running the project, and we are delighted that pupils from three local schools are among our volunteers: Devonshire House, Maria Montessori School and UCS Junior Branch. Each group of children will be responsible for the tubes close to their school.
Our team are being advised by Camden’s air quality officer. The readings will be reference quality, fit to stand with Camden’s official figures. We will be able to tell whether we are on track to get inside WHO-recommended limits by 2030, or if more action is needed.
UPDATE - JANUARY 2022
The first two months of laboratory data suggest a reduction in NO2 pollution compared with the levels we recorded six years ago, though it remains in excess of legal limits. However, it is far too soon to predict the final results.
There is certainly no cause for complacency about the quality of the air we breathe. In recent years epidemiologists have learned more about how air pollution harms us, and the World Health Organisation has lowered the limits that it suggests we should consider to be safe. The government is considering revising the legal limits, and Camden plans to hold a consultation soon on its next Clean Air Action Plan.
UPDATE - MAY 2022
Read the latest update about the Air Quality Project in this article:
UPDATE - January 2023
The HNF (Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum) Air Quality Project volunteers, including teachers and student from three local schools, have now managed to collect a year's worth of NO2 air pollution data in 10 locations across Hampstead. The HNF and Camden Council are still waiting for guidance from DEFRA before they can publish any specific figures, but an initial analysis of the data shows the following trends:
- NO2 pollution around Hampstead has fallen significantly since 2015. It is encouraging to see a marked improvement in NO2 levels in recent years, suggesting that measures to reduce air pollution such as the extension of the ULEZ (starting October 2021) and an increase in electric cars are having a positive effect. However the numbers also show that we still have some way to go to reduce air pollution to levels deemed safe by public health experts.
- NO2 levels have reduced more in some places than others: significant levels of NO2 pollution remain along busy roads such as Pond Street, South End Green and Heath Street, and roads with heavy school traffic such as Arkwright Road and Lyndhurst Road. Pollution levels here are still many times higher than the annual average limit suggested by the WHO.
- NO2 levels were found to be higher in the colder months than in the summer. Some of this is likely to be related to a reduction in commuting and the absence of school traffic during the summer holidays, but heating also plays a role in air pollution.
A limitation of looking at average levels of air pollution is that, while it gives a good indication of the overall problem, it masks the peak levels of pollution during rush hour, which have a detrimental effect on human health.
Unfortunately, the scope of this project did not allow the monitoring of other air pollutants in Hampstead, especially harmful particulate matter, which is produced by traffic (including electric cars), wood burning stoves (including eco-designed stoves) and emissions from manufacturing.