London air quality app to help workers

london air quality app
© iStock/jaymitpatel

The British Safety Council (BSC) has partnered with King’s College London to produce a free-to-use app which charts levels of air pollution in London.

Canairy, the first mobile app which enables outdoor workers to gauge their exposure to air pollution, was launched today as part of the British Safety Council’s Time to Breathe air quality campaign. Air pollution is considered the UK’s greatest single environmental public health risk, contributing to around 36,000 premature deaths per year – 9,400 in London alone.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “Our campaign will highlight every employer’s duty of care for the risks from ambient air pollution. The [Health and Safety Executive] tells us that it doesn’t regulate the ambient environment, and the recent Clean Air Strategy had little or nothing to say about people who spend their working lives outdoors. These workers are caught in a blind spot and we think their health is at risk.”

The Canairy app will make use of King’s College’s London Air Quality Network air pollution map and the GPS technology of the device on which it is installed to produce hourly updates on local levels of air pollution. If a user remains in a highly polluted area long enough to exceed exposure recommendations set by the World Health Organisation, the app will notify the user and generate suggestions for ways to minimise their exposure.

Andrew Grieve, Senior Air Quality Analyst at King’s College London, said: “As a group, outdoors workers are particularly vulnerable to long-term exposure to ambient air pollution. Within a workplace, the risk of people’s exposure to polluted air can be controlled using well-established methods; but this is more difficult for outdoor workers, many of whom work near or on busy roads. The app gathers data from the London network, the most advanced urban air quality monitoring network in the world, which, combined with traffic data and topographical information, produces the most sophisticated model for pollution we have in the UK. We hope that the information provided by the app can be used to inform health risk assessments and contribute to scheduling work that reduces exposure. Crucially, it can also help employers and workers to monitor their progress in avoiding unhealthy levels of pollution.”

The BSC intends to launch its Time to Breathe campaign fully at a dedicated event in London’s Oxford Circus on 12 March. Waterman said: “We are calling on London-based employers to join those trialling Canairy and help us build an accurate picture of the exposure faced by outdoor workers. This information will be a cornerstone of future campaigns for better research into the links between occupation and health data. Given that we don’t even know how many outdoor workers there are in the UK, we need those authorities with responsibility for our health and environment to work together on this issue.”

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