Pollution warnings beamed straight to your mobile

Londoners have long been able to catch up with the latest news and football results with SMS messaging services but now there is a new text vying for space in the inbox - pollution updates.

A pilot scheme is currently running in Croydon, giving asthma sufferers and others with lung problems the chance to sign up for the free service which warns them of any potential pollution blackspots.

The YourAir service predicts levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and ultra-fine particulates and, if any are likely to be at dangerous levels, sends out a flurry of texts to subscribers warning them of the areas best avoided.

Unlike previous systems, YourAir maps probable air pollution street by street, and as the highest levels are often found along routes with heavy traffic or other pollution sources, the information can help those at risk make informed choices about their travel routes.

At the moment the scheme is only available to vulnerable people in Croydon but there are plans to roll out the pilot scheme in several London boroughs and, if it proves valuable to its users, later expanded to cover the whole of the country.

The project is being carried out by Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC) under the aegis of the European Space Agency.

“The YourAir service works by combining data from the various sources available,” said Iarla Kilbane-Dawe of CERC.

“It combines regional air quality forecasts provided by PROMOTE with information on local road traffic patterns.

“We also employ information from monitoring stations around the city.

“Because their coverage is limited they don’t help with generating forecasts, but serve as a key way of validating our results, which so far have been around 90% accurate.

“For the next stage of the project we aim to improve the accuracy further by integrating other data sources, especially satellite observations and more data on traffic patterns.”

Any Croydon residents who feel they are in a high-risk group and have not been contacted about YourAir should call the council on 020 8760 5483 for more information.

For those who want to keep an eye on pollution levels in central London, CERC updates its pollution map of the city daily and a copy can be found on its website.

By Sam Bond

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