Investigating air quality in your town or city is a great way to find out more about how clean the air is near you. It can also be really useful for raising awareness about air pollution and could also be a great place to start a campaign.
Monitoring air quality could help you:
- Spread the word about the problems and get friends and family to support the cause.
- Help you gain local media coverage.
- Give you a way in to talking to your local council about the alternatives and solutions.
The cheapest and simplest way to measure air pollution is with air monitoring tubes (also called diffusion tubes) that measure nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – one of the most harmful pollutants.
How to get hold of air monitoring tubes
If you're a Friends of the Earth local group or affiliate group, we can give you up to 10 free air monitoring tubes to measure pollution. Having lots of tubes means you can place them strategically around your area and build a bigger picture of the air pollution issue where you are. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to request your tubes. If you are not part of a local group, but would like to get involved with one, you can find your nearest group here.
If you're not part of a local group, but are part of a community group who want to measure the air pollution around you, we can provide you with some tubes for a donation. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
If you’re not part of a local group or community group, you can order a Clean Air Kit.
Clean Air Kit
The Clean Air Kit is designed to help people find out how polluted the air is where they live, and provide some tools and ideas to take action.
If you’re looking for a simple way to monitor the air around you, you can order a Clean Air Kit from our website.
The Clean Air Kit includes:
- An air monitoring tube and instructions
- An air pollution guide – including top tips on avoiding dirty air
- Ideas and details of how you can join up with others to take action
Once you get your results, we’ll add them to a map of air pollution created in conjunction with experts at King’s College London, to help build a better picture of air pollution in the UK.
How to use your air monitoring tubes
When we send you air monitoring tubes, we’ll send you detailed guidance on how best to use them.
Here are a couple of pointers to help you start planning while you’re waiting for them to arrive.
Air monitoring (or diffusion) tubes look a bit like test tubes and are about 8cm long. They measure NO2 in the air over a period of time. You can attach them easily to lamp posts, drain pipes or railings, and they need to be up for 2-4 weeks before being sent off for analysis.
Remember, the tubes measure average levels of NO2 over a period of time, so you won’t be able to record short term spikes in pollution.
Before you start, think carefully about where you would like to put them. It would be good to check on DEFRA’s air monitoring map to see if your council is already monitoring air pollution near you.
If you’ve got more than one tube then for best results, make sure you put at least one tube where pollution levels are low so you can compare the readings – a quiet road is ideal.
After that, you’ll want to find some useful places for the rest of your tubes. Is there a street with heavy traffic with lots of large vehicles passing through? Is there a school on a main road which often has cars keeping their engines running outside?
Anywhere where the pollution levels are likely to be high and which could also tell a good story is ideal.
What do I do once I get the results?
Once you’ve had your tubes up for 2-4 weeks, send them to us and we’ll send them off to the lab for analysis. It’ll take about 3-4 weeks for us to get the results back. When we have them, we’ll put them up on our air pollution map at www.foe.co.uk/page/national-air-pollution-map, and send them on to you with an explanation of what they mean.
There may be other people in your area who have used a Clean Air Kit or some of our tubes to monitor air pollution, so it’s worth checking on the map to see what else is happening nearby.
Once you have these results in your hand, there are all sorts of things you can do with them.
- They could be the perfect springboard to raise awareness about the problems of air pollution and find other people to join your cause.
- You could also use them to help convince your local authority they need to take action to clean up the air in your town.
- This guide has suggestions of activities you can do, many of which, such as organising a public meeting or lobbying your council to commit to want to go diesel-free, can be supported and enhanced by your air monitoring tube results.