Poor air quality globally kills 7 million people annually and in 2020 more than 900 people died from air pollution in Birmingham (WHO, 2019). In an attempt to improve air quality within their city, Birmingham City Council introduced the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) on 1st June 2021. The zone encapsulates the area within but not inclusive of the A4540 inner city ring road and applies to all vehicles that do not meet the minimum requirements of Euro 6 for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol. Cars, taxis and LGVs are charged £8 a day for entering the zone, whilst coaches, buses and HGVs are charged £50 (BCC, 2021). There are legal requirements for Birmingham to reduce annual mean NO2 to below 40µgm-3 but the CAZ aims to continue reduce both NO2 and Particulate Matter (PM) levels to as low as possible by discouraging the most polluting vehicles off of the roads, and encouraging a greener fleet and more active and sustainable travel.
In line with the launch of the CAZ, Birmingham Urban Observatory added air quality monitors to our extensive network of sensors across the city. A combination of our own IoT enabled particulate matter sensors and commercial Earth Sense Zephyrs were introduced in key locations across the city, both within and outside of the CAZ boundary. Data from these devices feeds into our open-source online platform, which publicly allows you to create and download data visualisations and time series for free. The approach of a city wide laboratory will allow for potential outputs of the CAZ to be monitored at much higher resolution than previously supported by traditional monitoring methods. This data can support both air quality research and public awareness of pollutant levels. Deployment locations were also supported by feedback from stakeholders such as local hospitals, enterprise groups and communities. Some monitors were placed in locations that were of concern, undergoing management or changes which may impact or improve air quality to support in decision making of pollution mitigation strategies.
For more information on the Birmingham Urban Observatory and to view our data, please visit www.birminghamurbanobservatory.com