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2011-12-12 - 23:38:00 - by AlisonW - Topic: London: |

I've just read about a hackday in Amsterdam this weekend on the matter of developing cheap personal testing of air quality.

And I love this idea. Absolutely. And here's why: London is built within a bowl, and among the line of hills forming the northern side of that bowl you can find Highgate, where I live. In fact I live on the south-facing side on the top floor of a block of flats which are in almost exact line with the inversion layer we often have, trapping the fumes and particulates over the city.

And most days – especially in summer – I cannot only smell them but see them, as layers of dark and muddy colours, just as I would regularly see over many of the world's cities when I was a frequent flier.

When it gets really bad I walk down my four flights of stairs to road level, and the air is notably more breathable there than in my room. When it gets *really* bad I go and stay out of town, in the country where vehicle fumes are replaced with farmyard smells (but sadly I'm still under a flight path, just of a different airport.)

There are two things to improving air quality and making our cities breathable again (and in so doing reducing the many premature deaths which are directly attributable each year.)

One of those is stopping the uncontrolled production of gases and particulates harmful to human health. But the first is knowing more about the enemy: what is there 'out there' doing us harm? Where is it? What heights are worst (do little kids suffer differently to basketball players? how can we tell when all existing sensors are up high out of reach?)

I'm looking forward to following what comes out of this (and almost certainly getting building stuff in my workshop)



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