Camden Air Quality Monitoring
This page provides information about Camden Council’s air quality
Camden Council has committed to meeting the World Health Organization's 2021 air quality guidelines. We use air quality monitoring to measure our progress and to identify the areas most in need of action to tackle air pollution. You can read
more about what we are doing to clean Camden's air and how you can help on our air quality web pages.
The air we breathe affects our health, so clean air is important for us all.
'Air pollution' refers to any gas or particles in the air that can damage our health. 'Air quality' is a measure of the amount of air pollution in the air that we are breathing.
Polluted air can harm everyone's health, at any stage in our lives. It is known to affect our lungs, hearts and brains, and is linked to many illnesses which can have a long-term effect on our health and wellbeing. Children, older people, and people with existing health conditions are most vulnerable.
When we talk about air pollution in Camden we are usually referring to the following two types of pollutants:
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - an invisible gas produced by burning fossil fuels and other materials, for example in vehicle engines and gas boilers.
- Particulate matter (PM) - often referred to as PM10 ('coarse particulate matter') and PM2.5 ('fine particulate matter'), these are small airborne particles including dust, soot, and droplets of liquid. PM is produced when fuels and materials are burned, but also by friction and abrasion of surfaces and by chemical reactions in the air. The number indicates the maximum size of the particles in micrometres (one-thousandth of a millimetre), and we mainly focus on PM2.5 because it is smaller and can enter deeper into our lungs and circulatory system.
Sources of air pollution in Camden
Buildings are responsible for the majority of NO2 air pollution in Camden, and this is produced when gas, oil or diesel is burned for heating and power systems in our homes, workplaces, schools and other public buildings. Road vehicles, diesel trains and construction machinery also contribute to NO2 air pollution.
Buildings are also responsible for the majority of PM2.5 air pollution in Camden, and commercial kitchens are the largest contributor to these emissions. The use of charcoal, wood and gas for cooking produces PM2.5 air pollution, and heating or burning foods (especially oily and fatty foods) also releases this type of pollution. Other sources of PM2.5 air pollution in Camden include open fireplaces and wood burners inside homes, as well as road vehicles, diesel trains and construction machinery.
Monitoring air quality in Camden
Monitoring air quality is important because it helps us to understand how air pollution is distributed throughout Camden, and allows us to assess the impact of actions we take to improve air quality. We measure air pollution at many locations across Camden, and these are selected to be representative of public exposure to air pollution.
We measure air quality in different ways, and the various types of measurement devices produce different data:
- Diffusion tubes - we use these to measure NO2 air pollution. Diffusion tubes are easy to use, affordable and reliable, but they only measure monthly-average NO2 data, meaning that we cannot see how NO2 levels vary day to day or week to week. We have many hundreds of diffusion tubes located around Camden to measure NO2 air pollution.
- Reference automatic air quality sensors - these are permanent electrical sensors which continuously measure the amount of NO2 and PM air pollution, so we can collect hourly-average air quality data. They are very accurate but due to the size and expense of these sensors we only have a small number across the borough. They are referred to as ‘reference’ sensors because they are certified to the highest standards of data quality.
- AirScape sensor network - this is an air quality monitoring network of sensors measuring NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 which can be used to fill in the gaps between our more accurate reference automatic air quality sensors, whilst providing more detail than diffusion tubes.
- Other types of outdoor air quality measurement devices - from time to time we use other types of air quality sensors to measure specific pollutants in particular locations. These are sometimes referred to as ‘small air quality sensors’. For example, we attached a small PM2.5 sensor to a building next to the Regent’s Canal at King’s Cross to measure particulate air pollution produced when wood and coal fuels are burned for heating.
- Indoor air quality - we are exploring ways of measuring indoor air quality inside homes, workplaces and other buildings, because we typically spend at least 80% of our time indoors and because our indoor spaces can actually be as polluted as (or worse than) the air outdoors.
In the following sections you will find out more about some of these monitoring devices.
All of the air quality monitoring data that we record from our diffusion tubes and reference automatic air quality sensors can be viewed in our Annual Status Reports (ASRs). These are published on our air quality webpages.
The map below shows where we currently use diffusion tubes to measure NO2 air pollution (green points) and where we have historic NO2 data but are no longer measuring NO2 (orange points).
Hover your mouse over or click on the points to see the annual mean (yearly average) NO2 concentrations measured at these locations. All of the data presented on the map and in the related data table has been ratified according to the London Local Air Quality Management Technical Guidance (LLAQM) bias-correction and annualisation processes, so it can be compared against the UK legal limit for NO2 as well as Camden Council's more ambitious World Health Organization air quality target for NO2.
These NO2 targets are noted below (µg/m3 means micrograms per cubic metre of air):
- UK legal limit for NO2 (annual mean): 40µg/m3 (annual mean)
- Camden (WHO-aligned) target (annual mean): 10µg/m3 (annual mean)
Reference automatic air quality sensors
Data from the reference automatic air quality sensors in Camden can be viewed on the Air Quality in England website. Here you will be able to create graphs and download raw data. Some of these sensors are owned by Camden Council, and some are owned by the Environment Agency. Central District Alliance business improvement district also owns and operates a site of its own, located in Holborn.
Click on the links below to create a graph of air pollutant levels as measured over the past seven days at the listed monitoring locations:
AirScape sensor network
The AirScape sensor network was created as a partnership between Camden Council, AirScape, and the Camden Clean Air Initiative, a non-profit action group. The network consists of more than 200 small air quality sensors attached to street lighting columns throughout the borough, and these sensors measure NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 air pollution every minute to build up a detailed picture of air quality in Camden.
The data from the AirScape network can be used to learn more about air pollution hotspots in Camden, how air pollution changes over time, and to raise public awareness about how air pollution is a risk for everyone's health. It is an experimental network and improvements will be made as we learn more about its performance.
The AirScape data is publicly available and can be viewed as a map on the AirScape Camden website.
Community air quality monitoring
Camden Council’s air quality monitoring network has expanded significantly but we cannot measure air quality on every street. To increase data coverage we can support residents and community groups to carry out your own diffusion tube monitoring project in your neighbourhood by providing training, guidance on obtaining and installing equipment, and by helping to analyse the data.
To get in touch about a possible community air quality monitoring project please contact AirQuality@camden.gov.uk.
External monitoring data
High Speed 2 Ltd (HS2) measures air quality at a number of locations in Camden. You can download monitoring reports from this webpage: Monitoring the environmental effects of HS2.
Breathe London is a London-wide community air quality sensor network funded by the Greater London Authority and Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide local air quality data with a focus on vulnerable locations (like schools) and under-represented communities. You can find out more by visiting the Breathe London website.
Improving air quality in Camden
Camden Council is committed to realising the vision for a borough where 'no person experiences poor health because of the air they breathe'.
We became the first local authority to commit to meeting the World Health Organization's (WHO) 2005 air quality guidelines and also the revised WHO guidelines published in 2021. We did this because of the significant impact that air pollution has upon the health and wellbeing of Camden's citizens, whilst costing the NHS billions of pounds every year in healthcare costs and reducing economic productivity. Air pollution also damages biodiversity and represents a threat to natural ecosystems.
The WHO air quality guidelines provide an ambitious evidence-based target for improving air quality. These are much stricter than the UK legal limits for air pollution, and we have set ourselves a deadline to achieve the WHO guidelines for NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 air pollution throughout Camden by the end of 2034.
Every four years we publish a Clean Air Action Plan setting out the actions we will take to achieve our objectives. Our current Camden Clean Air Action Plan 2023-2026 was published in March 2023 and describes our ambitious programme to clean Camden's air in partnership with communities, businesses and other stakeholders.
Download: Camden Clean Air Action Plan 2023-2026