HUNDREDS of air quality sensors will be rolled out across London this month thanks to a £1million donation from an Irish businessman.
Mayo entrepreneur John Griffin is hoping to play his part in improving the quality of schools in the capital.
The Addison Lee founder, who was a 2013 Irish Post Business Award winner, has teamed up with non-profit organisation Change London to fund the first 500 schools-based air quality sensors in London as part of the AirSensa project.
The project is a response to a growing number of reports showing the damaging effects of poor air quality.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimates that thousands of Londoners die early as a result of air pollution, while up to 30,000 die nationally costing the British economy £16billion every year.
“As the founder of London’s largest minicab firm, I feel a responsibility to get this ball rolling,” Mr Griffin said.
“Change London’s approach appeals to me as it is about taking action. We can’t speculate about the quality of air, we need to know the facts; and we need to be able to look across London and together take steps to change it.”
He added: “I’m particularly interested in the schools element of the project – poor air quality is damaging children more than us – and I think that if I can help to enable the next generation to learn about air pollution and how to address the problems, that is a legacy I can be very proud of.”
The AirSensa project has been designed to monitor and visualise air quality, initially across London, so that real-time information can be shared and steps can be taken to improve air quality.
The sensors will be delivered this month, with the first 500 units to be installed and generating data within six months.
The network will eventually consist of up to 10,000 sensors across the whole of greater London, including schools, business premises and other key locations.
Change London CEO Jonathan Steel said: “Poor air quality affects all of us, but particularly children. You can’t see emissions from road vehicles and domestic and commercial heating systems, but long-term exposure is damaging the health of everyone who lives, works or goes to school in London.
“We believe that it’s vital that we learn more about air pollution, and about the simple steps we can all take that can add up to a healthier city.”
News of the Airsensa project came in the same week that London Mayor Boris Johnson received a double award at the C40 Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards in New York.
The awards recognised his work to make London’s black taxi’s zero emission capable by 2018 and the creation of a new carbon accounting standard.
“The Mayor is leading the most ambitious and comprehensive package of measures in the world to reduce carbon emissions and improve London’s air quality,” said Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor’s senior environment advisor. “At the heart of his plans is the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020.”
But Richmond Councillor Stephen Knight, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesperson, claims the Government needs to do more.
“John Griffin’s generous funding of this scheme is of course very welcome but it is sad state of affairs when basic health checks for London’s school children are reliant on funding from owners of a minicab firm,” he said. “Ultimately ensuring clean air for London’s school children should not be a charitable affair.”