Delivery company DPD has announced the rollout of a major new air-quality monitoring program, Project Breathe, across six of the biggest cities in the UK.
The company states that the project is already live in London, with 100 mobile air-quality sensors fitted on the roofs of delivery vans and 20 fixed units at DPD Pickup shops close to schools and play areas. By the end of May, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff will join the initiative, creating a network of over 400 sensors, delivering 1.5m pollution readings a day.
The sensors take readings every 12 seconds and are focused on the most critical health impactor – fine particles PM2.5 at breathing level – to provide real-time data designed to help visualize the air-quality issue and identify hotspots.
PM2.5 refers to dangerous particles of pollution that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter. At 1/20th the width of a human hair, they lodge deep in lung tissue and are linked to many diseases including cancer and asthma. The UK rollout is part of a Europe-wide DPD program in partnership with air-quality tracking provider Pollutrack, with a planned total of 2,400 sensors across 20 European cities by the end of 2021.
Once the sensors are installed and monitored for two months, DPD will provide air-quality information based on real measurements, street by street, via the Pollutrack AirDiag system to help local councils with their policy making. The data will also be available to DPD customers and academics.
Olly Craughan, DPD’s head of CSR, said, “Breathe is a hugely significant project for us and complements our 2025 strategy to deliver via electric vehicles to 25 cities in the UK. We will be measuring air pollution using our existing city-center fleet and facilities. Typically, air-quality monitoring has just been based on fixed positions, whereas we are mobile and cover the whole of a city at different times. We will be providing real-time, breathing-level readings that could help improve air quality for millions of people.
“The initial Covid lockdowns really highlighted the issue of air quality, as people got used to quieter roads and cities. We hope that local authorities, other key stakeholders and academics can utilize this data to help inform further research and local decision making. We are already working with the team behind the Birmingham Clean Air Zone and our data will play a key part in monitoring the real impact the zone makes when it goes live on June 1, 2021.”