We’ve carried out three air pollution studies in east and south-east London since 2013. You can read about our first study, around Greenwich and Eltham, below. In 2014, we studied 100 sites on both sides of the Thames, and in 2015, we looked at locations in Poplar, Canning Town and Silvertown.
The first No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study, in the summer of 2013, followed a petition against the scheme launched in December 2012.
Frustrated by the lack of organised opposition to the proposal, and angered by Greenwich Council’s Bridge The Gap campaign to back the Silvertown Tunnel, journalists Adam Bienkov and Darryl Chamberlain decided to counter the council’s incessant promotion of the tunnel with their own petition.
They were approached by Network For Clean Air, which had obtained funding for “citizen science” projects – in this case, putting small tubes which are sensitive to nitrogen dioxide on lamp posts to measure pollution levels.
Across London, the Putney Society had carried out a similar exercise on streets around Putney town centre, which changed attitudes at its local council and influenced a Transport for London decision to introduce low-emission buses in the area.
After hearing about the Putney experience, we gathered a group of volunteers together. On 2 June 2013, 13 of us set out to attach 56 tubes at locations between Greenwich and Eltham.
All we needed were the tubes, stepladders and cable ties.
Four weeks later, we took the tubes back down again. Three had gone missing, but the other 53 were still in place. The tubes were sent back to a specialist lab, which processed them and sent the results back to us. You’ll find those results on the next page.
There was more, though. As a courtesy, we told Greenwich Council about our plans. Through this, we discovered that Greenwich has been monitoring air pollution in the same way since 2005. Other boroughs do it too. But Greenwich had stopped publishing the results in 2010. We put in a Freedom of Information request, and we present the full data on this website. Greenwich’s data corroborated our own findings.
You might wonder: why wasn’t this information on Greenwich Council’s own website? Well, we wondered that too… the results have since returned to the Greenwich Council website.
Acknowledgements: We’d like to thank our volunteers who gave up two Sundays to shimmy up lamp posts with our tubes: Jill Austen, Adam Bienkov, Ian Blore, Darryl Chamberlain, Stewart Christie, Nikki Coates, Phil Connolly, Barbara Gill, Terry Grant, Clare Griffiths, Arthur Hayles, Dave Sharman and Chris Taylor.
We’d also like to thank Andrew Wood from Network for Clean Air, Friends of the Earth’s Jenny Bates, and Alan Haughton for advice and assistance. Finally, the tubes were funded by Lush Campaigns – so if you like what we’ve done, buy some bath bombs!