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Learn about the importance of breathing clean air

The European Lung Foundation is holding a free event for members of the public to learn more about lung health.

  • • Learn about how air quality impacts our lung health
  • • Hear about the latest research in the field
  • • Ask lung health experts your questions

The event is on Monday 5th September, 18:00 - 20:00, at the Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE.

Entry is free. You can register online here. More details are here.

17th August 2016

Chelmsford joins airTEXT

We are delighted to welcome Chelmsford City Council to airTEXT. CERC and the Council have worked together to extend the airTEXT service to the council area, including:

  • • Street-scale air quality forecast maps
  • • Free air quality alerts by SMS text message, email, voicemail and Twitter
  • • Free phone apps for Android and iPhone
  • • Daily health bulletins

26th May 2016

Colchester joins airTEXT

We are delighted to welcome Colchester Borough Council to airTEXT. CERC and the Council have worked together to extend the airTEXT service to the council area, including:

  • • Street-scale air quality forecast maps
  • • Free air quality alerts by SMS text message, email, voicemail and Twitter
  • • Free phone apps for Android and iPhone
  • • Daily health bulletins

30th March 2016

Three Rivers joins airTEXT

We are delighted to welcome Three Rivers District Council to airTEXT. CERC and the District Council have worked together to extend the airTEXT service to the council area, including:

  • • Street-scale air quality forecast maps
  • • Free air quality alerts by SMS text message, email, voicemail and Twitter
  • • Free phone apps for Android and iPhone
  • • Daily health bulletins

7th October 2015

airTEXT performance: April 2015 PM episode

This short report documents the performance of the airTEXT air quality forecasting service for London during the period 8th to 10th April 2015, when a widespread moderate particulate pollution episode occurred due to a high pressure system over the southern part of the UK and Northern Europe causing low wind speeds and a build up of pollutants over London. This episode was widely reported in the media as the UK Government forecast, produced by the Met Office, predicted high and very high levels across the whole of the southern part of the UK for Friday 10th; certainly in London these predicted extreme levels were not seen in measurements.

The graph below shows time series plots of concentration in μg/m3 averaged across all available Londonair monitoring stations during the period from Monday 6th April to Monday 13th April; hourly average NOx and NO2, 8-hour rolling average ozone, daily average PM10 and PM2.5. These are the statistics used in the Government's daily air quality index system. The green line represents airTEXT predictions (from the evening forecast for the next day), the black line represents the observed values and the grey line shows the number of monitoring stations included in the average. At least 75% of a station's hourly values within an averaging period are required to be valid for that averaging period to be considered valid for that station. The Government's 'moderate' and 'high' alert threshold concentrations are shown by the orange and red dashed lines respectively where appropriate.

The episode can clearly be seen in the PM10 and PM2.5 graphs, beginning on Wednesday 8th and not dropping back to normal levels until Saturday 11th. airTEXT performed well throughout the episode,capturing the duration and intensity of the episode; in addition, airTEXT correctly provided a valuable two days' advance notice of the expected beginning and end of the episode.

airTEXT forecasts use regional air quality forecasts from European institutions that make use of satellite observations, emissions data collected from 30,000 street-level pollution sources in London and a state-of-the-art model of urban air pollution dispersion, ADMS-Urban, to produce twice daily forecasts of NO2, ozone, PM10 and PM2.5 up to three days ahead at street-scale resolution across Greater London and Slough.

Amy Stidworthy, CERC, 27th April 2015

airTEXT performance: March 2015 PM episode

This short report documents the performance of the airTEXT air quality forecasting service for London during the period 17th to 20th March 2015, when a severe particulate pollution episode occurred due to polluted air from industrialised areas of northern Europe being transported by light easterly winds and mixing with local emissions under poor dispersion conditions.

The graph below shows time series plots of concentration in μg/m3 averaged across all available Londonair monitoring stations during the period from Saturday 14th March to Sunday 22nd March; hourly average NOx and NO2, 8-hour rolling average ozone, daily average PM10 and PM2.5. These are the statistics used in the Government's daily air quality index system. The blue line represents airTEXT predictions (from the evening forecast for the next day), the green dashed line represents the observed values and the black dotted line shows the number of monitoring stations included in the average. At least 75% of a station's hourly values within an averaging period are required to be valid for that averaging period to be considered valid for that station.

The episode can clearly be seen in the PM10 and PM2.5 graphs, beginning on Tuesday 17th and not dropping back to normal levels until Saturday 21st. airTEXT performed particularly well on Tuesday 17th, when the episode was at its peak; in addition, airTEXT forecasts were predicting the high PM episode on the 17th as early as Sunday 15th.

airTEXT forecasts use regional air quality forecasts from European institutions that make use of satellite observations, emissions data collected from 30,000 street-level pollution sources in London and a state-of-the-art model of urban air pollution dispersion, ADMS-Urban, to produce twice daily forecasts of NO2, ozone, PM10 and PM2.5 up to three days ahead at street-scale resolution across Greater London and Slough.

Amy Stidworthy, CERC, 15th April 2015

airTEXT during Saharan dust episode (3 April 2014)

The Government's air quality forecast is provided by the Met Office. Over recent days, the Met Office forecast has far exceeded monitored levels in London. In contrast, airTEXT predictions for London have matched well with observations.

National media attention has focussed on the Government's air pollution forecast for yesterday and today, which predicted high to very high levels of pollution in London due to Saharan dust. Whilst levels were elevated yesterday evening due to the dust and remained elevated overnight, the Met Office forecast over-predicted the duration and intensity of the effect. Alternative forecasts of Saharan dust which are used to inform airTEXT are provided by ECMWF under the EU MACC project. These forecasts predicted elevated but lower levels than the Met Office. The airTEXT forecast across London for today Thursday 3rd April 2014 is 'high' for fine particles. Click here for related health advice.

Note that websites that show the latest observations of fine particles show an average over the previous twenty-four hours, whereas airTEXT predicts an average over the calendar day. Also note that forecasting air pollution accurately is very challenging, especially where sources are difficult to characterise as is the case for Saharan dust. Different forecast providers use different forecasting methods. For more information, please email forecast@cerc.co.uk.

Updated implementation of UK DAQI (1 May 2013)

The airTEXT forecast service for London has been updated in keeping with the updated implementation of the UK Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI). On 24 April Defra published minor changes to the index to bring it fully into line with EU Limit Value concentrations. The airTEXT forecasts have been updated today to take account of these changes.

For more information on the DAQI changes see the Defra report which is available on the UK-AIR Library.

airTEXT Cold weather alert service in Islington Winter 2012/13

A cold weather alert service is being piloted this winter by Islington Council using airTEXT. The service is designed to help those suffering from COPD to take practical measures to prepare for cold weather and to take simple steps during cold weather to reduce any harmful effects.

Cold weather can cause shortness of breath and wheezing for anyone with COPD, resulting in increased hospital admissions and illness relating to breathing difficulties following a fall in temperature.

The Islington cold weather alert service sends FREE alert messages to a landline or mobile phone. The message acts as a reminder that to keep healthy through the winter a simple common sense approach is needed by those affected by COPD, such as:

  • • try to avoid exercising outside
  • • limit the amount of time you spend outdoors
  • • try to breathe through your nose or through clothing, such as a scarf, to warm the air if you do need to go outdoors
  • • avoid smoky environments
  • • keep your rescue inhaler with you & use it if you feel breathless
  • • try to keep your home adequately heated during the day & night through the cold spell.

The council has written to GPs in Islington about the service to encourage them to sign up their COPD patients to the pilot service. If you or someone you care for suffers from COPD call Islington Council's helpline on FREEPHONE 0800 9531221 or 020 7527 2121 to receive these FREE cold weather alert messages. The council can also offer advice on energy efficiency and other health services that may help you during the winter.

The Islington cold weather alerts are based on the Met Office's Cold Weather Alerts which form part of the Department of Health's Cold Weather Plan for England 2012.

Islington cold weather alert service subscribers may be sent one of three different levels of alert:

Alert level Alert label Alert description
YELLOW Alert and readiness Cold weather is expected within the next 48 hours
AMBER Cold weather action The weather is cold now
RED Emergency The weather is cold now and has been cold for an unusually prolonged period
'Cold' in this case means that either the temperature is below 2°C or there is widespread snow or ice

The pilot service was developed at Islington Council by a partnership between the Council's air quality management, public health and seasonal health and advice teams, and by CERC who operate the airTEXT air quality alert service. It was jointly funded by the Department of Health's Warm Homes Healthy People Fund for 2012/13 and Islington Council's public health team, part of NHS North Central London. The service operates through to the end of March 2013.

Mayor backs new airTEXT service to help Londoners receive better pollution alerts

Londoners and visitors to the capital will be able to receive better information about forecast pollution levels thanks to a brand new 'app' designed by the airTEXT consortium. There will also be improved Twitter services and an enhanced airTEXT website.

The new services significantly enhance airTEXT's existing text message alerts which are sent to registered users. This will mean that daily pollution information and forecasts for the day ahead (including UV, pollen, temperature and air quality), will be easily available on smart phones and other mobile devices. A new website also shows maps of the city's pollution levels. It is expected all the new and improved service will be particularly helpful for people who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma, hayfever, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease or angina.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'I have introduced a range of effective measures to cut pollution, including the first ever age limit for taxis, tougher standards for the London Low Emission Zone and more cleaner buses. It is also important that we improve information to help those whose health can be affected when pollution levels are higher. We've been delighted to help airTEXT develop their brand new and enhanced information service for Londoners and visitors.'

Press resources:

airTEXT health bulletins shortlisted in London Sustainable City Awards

airTEXT daily health bulletins, trialled last summer in the London Borough of Islington, were one of the successful entries shortlisted in the 11th Annual Sustainable City Awards, revealed on 1 March 2012 at City of London awards ceremony.

Last summer, airTEXT and CERC trialled the new combined alert services, providing a range of environmental information, adding minimum and maximum temperature, pollen and UV index to accompany information on local air pollution. The daily health bulletin trial was funded by an EU 7th Framework programme, PASODOBLE www.myair-eu.org.

A daily email was sent to health centres, a hospital, leisure centres, libraries, a hotel, schools and council departments where staff work outside all day, to be printed out and displayed on noticeboards. The two month trial was evaluated with the feedback showing the bulletins were popular and well-received.

Following the evaluation, CERC's objective is to provide the daily health bulletin to health, leisure and tourism venues across London during the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games.

airTEXT evaluation project

Dr. Kirsty Smallbone of the University of Brighton's School of the Environment carried out a year long project to evaluate the airTEXT project. The research aimed to assess whether the scheme is operating effectively, its overall usefulness and provide recommendations for continuation and improvements. Kirsty and her team drew on their considerable experience in working with national and local respiratory groups, patient support groups, health professionals and environmental health officers. The research methodology included focus groups, questionnaires, diaries of activity and measurements of peak flow readings during forecast periods of elevated and low pollution.

The evaluation project has been reported to a meeting of air quality professionals http://www.iapsc.org.uk/document/1209_K_Smallbone.pdf

EEA-PROMOTE User Workshop on GMES Atmosphere Services

The User Workshop was held in Copenhagen on 12-13 June 2008. The London airTEXT system was presented on the first morning and was part of the training sessions held on the second afternoon, when users had a chance to try out the different PROMOTE services. The airTEXT presentation can be downloaded here (PDF file, 1.8MB).

airTEXT London launch

The London-wide airTEXT air quality forecasting and alerting service was launched at the Greater London Authority City Hall on March 28th 2007. Speakers included the Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron, Steven Briggs from ESA and Lord Hunt from CERC, the developers of the airTEXT forecasting system. Read the full story here...