London's first air quality text service launched

Innovative new service helps those who suffer from effects of air pollution

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An new service which helps Londoners likely to suffer from the effects of air pollution begins this week in the capital. The free service, launched by Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron at City Hall is aimed at Londoners who suffer from illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, and heart disease.

airTEXT works by sending alerts and health advice to those people who are most likely to be affected on days when air pollution is elevated in their area. Advance warning of higher pollution levels allows individuals to take precautionary measures such as remaining indoors, avoiding excessive exercise or carrying their reliever medication with them.

Under the scheme, people can sign-up to receive local air pollution alerts by mobile phone text message, voicemail or email. People in need of the service can register for the alerts online at or by calling the airTEXT co-ordinators on 020 8760 5483. Separate forecasts are generated for each London borough that allow residents to select which part of London they wish to receive alerts for. Individuals can also choose whether they prefer to receive the warning on the evening before or the morning of a predicted high air pollution day.

A pilot scheme, the first of its kind in the world, has operated in Croydon since July 2005 and has received a positive response. 80% of users, responding to the Croydon survey, stated that airTEXT helped them to manage their symptoms better and reduce their exposure to air pollution.

Launching the event, Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron said, “There’s more than love in the air this spring! Air pollution causes around one thousand premature deaths each year and we must do everything we can to cut emissions. This pioneering service will provide people with crucial information about peak periods of air pollution localised for their part of London. So they can take action. It could literally save lives”.

Cambridge Environmental Research Consultant’s atmospheric scientist Dr Iarla Kilbane-Dawe said, “Previously air pollution forecasts have focused on very large geographical areas and the methods for communicating the information have been poor. airTEXT represents a revolution in air pollution forecasting with localised information being sent directly to the individual allowing them to avoid exposure to air pollution and take other action like carrying any medication they need”.

Information about air quality is widely available throughout the European Union but has never been targeted in a timely and proactive way at vulnerable individuals. The forecasting system has been under development by scientists at Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC) since 1999 and the airTEXT project was developed by Croydon Council. In addition, the London Borough of Croydon has just been awarded Beacon Status for excellence and innovation in ‘Delivering Cleaner Air’. The Mayor of London is contributing funds to ensure that the scheme is available to all Londoners.

March 30, 2007