What are the key pollutants that will be reduced by Clean Air Zones?

We are often asked about the main pollutants and greenhouse gases in discussions with local authorities about how Videalert systems are used to manage and enforce clean air and low emission zones. However, whilst it is clear that such zones can have an impact in improving air quality, as evidenced by the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is equally important to monitor these harmful emissions on an ongoing basis to validate their impact on the environment.

Here is a description of the main pollutants and their common sources:

Ozone (O3) – formed when sunlight reacts with vehicle pollution and is a key component of smog as well as a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Breathing ozone irritates respiratory systems and can reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and cause permanent lung damage over time.
Carbon monoxide (CO) – This colourless, odourless gas is released when fuels are burned. Most CO in urban areas comes from vehicles and, when inhaled, displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen. High levels of CO typically are not found outdoors. It also reacts with other molecules in the atmosphere to create carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) – As the primary greenhouse gas resulting from fossil fuel combustion, CO2 does not directly cause human harm when encountered outdoors. The primary concern with CO2 is its role in climate change. The main sources of CO2 include transportation, electricity production and industry.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – This is emitted directly from combustion sources or formed in the atmosphere from complex chemical reactions. It is one of the primary pollutants because it is linked to asthma, lung cancer and deaths from cardiopulmonary diseases.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – This gaseous pollutant s formed from the combustion of fossil fuels and is a key component of smog. NO2 can also be emitted from unvented gas appliances and irritates respiratory systems, leading to coughing, wheezing, increased asthma attacks and reduced lung function.
Black carbon (BC) – These sooty black particles are emitted from diesel engines, heavy oil or coal-fired power plants, biomass burning and other sources that burn fossil fuel. Black carbon is associated with health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer and even birth defects.

These are all harmful gases that need to be substantially and sustainably reduced over the longer term. As we have already seen by the dramatic increase in air quality as a result of the lockdown in the UK, improvements can be quickly achieved and clean air and low emission zones will have a significant impact on achieving this objective moving forward.

What is the impact of air pollution on the spread of COVID-19?
Questions are now being asked about whether air pollution, particularly relating to PM2.5 is linked to speeding up the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According a leading supplier of air quality sensors, the number of people one sick person is likely to infect is higher in more polluted areas. In addition, dirty air was already known to increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of coronavirus-related deaths as well as other respiratory and heart problems. The company generates real-time air quality data by tracking all the key pollution in over 4000 cities worldwide to give a complete and accurate picture of the air we breathe. The company argues that regions of the world that have a significant problem with air pollution in the form of particulate matter, and in particular PM2.5, have very strong correlation to areas gravely affected by COVID-19.

Of course, if it can be determined that increased air pollution is linked to far higher Covid-19 spread and/or death rates. People will surely be more willing to do something about dirty air and climate change.

Clean Air Zones
As a leading pioneer in the development of monitoring and enforcement solutions, Videalert is in prime position to help councils achieve their targets for reducing pollution. The latest generation of Air Quality Monitors can be integrated with enforcement cameras to accurately cross correlate the impact of improved driver compliance with the improvements in air quality in these zones. These units use optical-based technologies and advanced sensor fusion algorithms to sense and count airborne particles from 1-1800µgm³. To ensure reliable operation, the sensor is based on light scattering and is fully glass sealed, protecting the internal mechanism from detrimental atmospheric effects. The sensors can transmit captured data to Videalert’s digital video platform which supports multiple traffic, parking, school safety, clean air and crime prevention applications simultaneously. The platform enables this data to be ‘visualised’ to show the levels of gas and particulate matter at different times throughout the day and night.

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