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Environment

How Bad Is the Air Pollution Where You Live? You Can Now Find Out

Do you know what you’re breathing?

For many, the answer is a resounding no.

But a tool from EarthSense systems makes it super easy to find out — examining concentration levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, something that often comes from diesel cars.

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EarthSense systems have published a nationwide map of air pollution using the British National Grid. It divided the UK into 100 metre squares and worked out air pollution data from satellite readings, traffic emissions, and weather conditions.

All you have to do is type in your postcode and boom — air pollution data! Yay!

As you might imagine, it’s not all good news. Live in London? Then maybe don’t take deep breaths to calm down.

The worst affected postcodes are in Marylebone Road and Hyde Park Corner, both in central London. In fact, three quarters of all the worst postcodes in Britain are in London.

Air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths a year, according to the Royal College of Physicians. The report also claims it’s responsible for over 6 million sick days a year, and an estimated total social cost of £22.6 billion annually.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Sales of diesel cars have fallen by 17.1% as pollution fears and tax rises affected demand, says the BBC. From April, a one-off tax charge will apply to new diesel cars that do not meet new emissions standards. It was announced in the government’s November budget — and sales fell by a third as a result in December.

A £220 million Clean Air Fund was also announced in the budget, with an additional £100 million in subsidies for electric cars — and the UK has pledged to ban all petrol and diesel cards by 2040 too.

Meanwhile, sales of green vehicles like electric and hybrid cars increased by 34.8%. But there’s still a long road ahead: just 13,500 cars out of the 2.5 million sold in the UK last year were “battery electric”.

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Diesel is actually more fuel efficient than petrol, and therefore produces less carbon dioxide. But  it releases more nitrogen dioxide, which can cause respiratory problems and reduce immunity to lung infections.

But large parts of Britain actually do have relatively clean air — more than four in five postcodes fall into the “least polluted” category.

"By focussing it down we can really isolate the hotspots of poor air quality, and better target our solutions,” said Professor Roland Leigh, EarthSense’s technical director. "Air quality is actually getting better in Britain, and we are in a better state than a large number of countries — particularly across Asia.”

And… breathe.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.11 for sustainable cities and communities. Take action with us here.