Unmasked: the true story of the air you’re breathing
Friends of the Earth’s groundbreaking citizen science air pollution experiment and its initial findings.
The results of Friends of the Earth’s massive people-powered air monitoring
experiment suggest that dirty air is a problem in far more places than the
government’s headline policy admits. That makes it all the more important for MPs
and their constituents to demand a tough plan for Clean Air Everywhere.
Introduction (Download the full report PDF)
In 2016, extraordinary people all over the country began a groundbreaking citizen science experiment to monitor air quality where they live, using Friends of the Earth’s innovative Clean Air Kits.
Why? Because Friends of the Earth wanted to find out whether government and local authority data told the full story.
Thanks to the extraordinary success of this project – and new analysis of other official data – we can now reveal that dirty air is a problem in many more places than the government admits in its headline policy to deal with the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The demand for our Clean Air Kits showed there was huge appetite among people all over the UK to get beyond the newspaper headlines and uncover the reality of air pollution in places most important to them. Thousands have done just that, in the process adding to a bank of evidence which is summarised for the first time in this report and which will continue to strengthen as Clean Air Kit data keeps rolling in.
But there is a special reason for releasing this report now: in late July, Ministers will publish their final Air Quality Plan for addressing the UK’s chronic problem with deadly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the very gas measured by our Clean Air Kits and so prevalent in diesel fumes.
We want our findings – and more importantly, the personal stories behind them, especially from those suffering poor health from air pollution – to add even more weight to the overwhelming case for tough, meaningful action in the fastest time possible; in short, for Clean Air Everywhere. Too much is at stake to allow a repeat of multiple recent failures in air pollution policy.
We’re enormously grateful to everyone who has so far taken part in our experiment. It can take real courage to be willing to find out how dirty the air is close to your home, workplace or child’s school: once you know that the air where you live is potentially damaging people’s health, you can’t un-know it.
But information is power. This report contains just a few of the incredible stories of people using their results to campaign for changes that will lower pollution and improve lives, the inspiring accidental activists who’ve felt left with no choice but to take immediate action.
Finally, we offer huge thanks to London Sustainability Exchange (LSx) who ran a similar citizen science project in London and have kindly shared their data with us for this report.
Please encourage everyone you know to get involved – you can order a Clean Air Kit and measure the pollution where you are by visiting: www.foe.co.uk/clean-air
Clean Air Campaigner
Friends of the Earth