Data Stories: Covid

From late October 2019 to early December 2020, Citizen Sense collaborated with participants in Forest Hill, London, to test the AirKit–a toolkit developed to enable citizen-led air-quality monitoring. The monitoring network began with a few test sites, but additional installations were prevented due to Covid-19 and ongoing lockdowns. These two Covid Data Stories document air quality at four test sites from February 2020 to July 2020.

The AirKit Toolkit

Based on previous research, Citizen Sense worked with local residents to develop a comprehensive air-quality monitoring toolkit, the AirKit. This toolkit consists of four components: 1) an AirKit Logbook with instructions for setting up an air-quality study, 2) a Dustbox 2.0 monitor for sensing particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), 3) an Airsift platform for analyzing citizen data, and 4) a Data Stories tool for narrating and communicating findings and proposals for action. These data stories capture findings from testing the AirKit in Forest Hill, London.

Air Quality and Covid

When the first Covid lockdowns were occurring in early 2020, a number of studies documented significant declines in air pollution around the world. Researchers also noted that exposure to air pollution could increase risk of death from Covid. Traffic has in some cases increased due to fewer people using public transport, leading to further air pollution. However, researchers suggest that these multiple findings about air pollution and Covid could encourage the development of less polluting industries and transport, while contributing to greater environmental justice. These data stories demonstrate changes–and continuities–in air pollution during Covid, while proposing ways to improve air quality.

AirKit Data: Key Findings

The 2 data stories presented on this site demonstrate the different patterns that have emerged from the data, including:

  • While air quality improved during the first Covid-related lockdown, nitrogen dioxide was significantly lower than particulate matter.
  • Likley sources of particulate matter were traffic, seasonal agricultural emissions, and burning activities.
  • Site-specific citizen monitoring can identify local pollution sources and patterns, and contribute to targeted proposals for improving the urban fabric, transport patterns, and air quality.

Read the data stories below to find out more.

Forest Hill Lockdown

Citizen data demonstrates that particulate matter levels were somewhat lower in 2019 than in 2020 in this area of Southeast London. However, regional emissions and pollution related to traffic and burning continued to contribute to moderate particulate matter levels.

Brockley Rise

Citizen monitoring has shown that particulate matter from traffic-related pollution was especially evident at Brockley Rise. Additional monitoring on the South Circular road could provide a fuller picture of transport-related pollution.