The Air That I Breathe

British air quality consistently breaches European regulations. It’s not just London or the other big cities, towns the length and breadth of the country suffer from filthy air. In this week’s ‘Costing the Earth’ Tom Heap asks what individuals can do to improve the quality of the air they breathe.

The first step is to find out where air quality is at its worst. New techniques, pioneered by Lancaster University, use the pollution-attracting powers of trees to allow scientists to draw up accurate pollution maps of urban areas. Combined with smartphone APPs they give every pedestrian the power to avoid pollution hotspots. Air pollution can be incredibly localised. Even by walking on a parallel street you can save your lungs from the worst of urban pollution.

These new ideas also open up the possibility of citizen control of air quality. The right trees planted in the right part of the street can reduce pollution loadings by up to 40%, offering communities a real chance to change their neighbourhood. Even individuals can have an effect. Chemists at Sheffield University in conjunction with Helen Storey at the London College of Fashion are developing the idea of pollution-munching clothes. Wear some jeans sprayed with a titanium catalyst and you could remove pollution from the air as you walk.

Producer: Alasdair Cross.

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