New tool raises awareness of air pollution impact

Clean Air in London has launched a new app that warns people about the dangers of air pollution and gives advice about how they can protect themselves.

To build public understanding of the dangers of air pollution, Clean Air in London (CAL) has launched a new app. The app uses the new Clean Air in Cities Index, developed by CAL, to report the health impact of long-term exposure to airborne particles (PM2.5) on the total population in a local area, region and England as a whole.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said: “It is vital people are warned about the dangers of air pollution and given advice about protecting themselves and reducing pollution for themselves and others. People may be encouraged by this new index and app to consider reducing their day to day exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution and may wish to seek health advice from medical or health professionals if they are concerned about possible health impacts.”

CAL wants to extend the app to other cities, regions, countries and parts of the world.  Within Europe, CAL has asked the European Environment Agency if it would be willing to provide the necessary data. The app, initially designed for iPhones and iPads, can be downloaded from the App Store. It can be found by searching for ‘Clean Air in Cities’ on the App Store or downloaded here: http://itun.es/i6xT8pH.

Key functionality of the app includes:

  • The new Clean Air in Cities Index to report the health impact on the population of long-term exposure to PM2.5;
  • Population-weighted annual mean concentrations of total PM2.5 for local areas, regions and England as whole compared to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline;
  • The percentage of total deaths attributable to long-term exposure to human-made PM2.5 in each area;
  • The pro rata calendar year-to-date number of deaths attributable to long-term exposure to human-made PM2.5 and time to the next such attributable death for every local area and region in England;
  • An ‘Add’ button allows users to add local areas or regions and an ‘Edit’ button allows users to move or delete local areas or regions. The location feature of the app allows users to choose from up to four nearby locations or select another area by typing its name;
  • Users can also see the CAL website and a detailed explanation of the app under ‘About’; and,
  • The app is free. Users are invited, as they add local areas or regions, to make at least one donation to CAL to support the further development of the app and other projects.

Total PM2.5 is the sum of human-made (i.e. anthropogenic) and background (i.e. non-anthropogenic) mass concentrations of PM2.5. The number of attributable deaths for an area depends on the attributable fraction and total number of deaths in that area, which means a larger, less polluted local area may have more such deaths than a smaller, more polluted local area. CAL hopes to be able to create android, desktop and other versions of the app in future.  For example, it would like to include estimates of short-term concentrations for air pollution (e.g. smog alerts) and show the Clean Air in Cities Index for every postcode. It would also like to show trends over time, costs and the impact of air pollution on morbidity (e.g. asthma etc.), personal exposure and other pollutants and extend the index to other public health risks.

“By using the latest technology, information obtained under access to environmental information laws and the new Clean Air in Cities Index, we are able to give people an indication of the health impact locally of long-term exposure to air pollution – the biggest public health risk after smoking. We hope the innovative new app and index will become a talking point and the EEA will support its wider use across Europe,” said Simon Birkett.

Note: The app does not estimate or display the number of actual deaths from air pollution or the risk for an individual.

The app shows year-to-date number of deaths attributable to long-term exposure to human-made PM2.5 in each area.

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