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A Magazine for Sheffield

Air quality project calls out for volunteers across Sheffield

Campaigners are creating a light installation to illustrate toxic air across the city – but many wards still need volunteers.


The existing network of air pollution sensors in Sheffield created by Clean Air Sheffield.

Air quality campaigners are calling for volunteers across the city to help on a unique new project to map Sheffield's toxic air.

Clean Air Sheffield want volunteers in each ward to install DIY pollution monitors that will feed live data into a network.

Each ward will then be represented by an LED lamp which will change colour depending on the current levels of air pollution.

The Council estimate that poor air quality contributes to 500 deaths a year in Sheffield – more than have died of Covid-19 in the city since 28 November.

"Air pollution is often described as the ‘invisible killer’, so a few months ago I had the idea to make it visible," Graham Turnbull of Clean Air Sheffield told Now Then.

"I've built a prototype at home of a series of colour changing light bulbs, each one connected over the internet to one of my air pollution sensors. They should be blue but if the sensors detect any PM2.5 in the air they change colour: green, yellow, red, purple as air pollution increases and international health limits are breached."

The volunteer sensors measure the density of PM2.5 – one of the most dangerous particles produced by vehicles and power stations – as well as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.

The sensors need to be outside, at least 2.5 metres off the ground, and use a small amount of electricity and WiFi connection.

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How the light installation could look.

Clean Air For Sheffield.

They then send an update every 145 seconds which feeds into a community-built interactive map, which already has dozens of data points across Sheffield.

Like most big cities in the UK, Sheffield has been in breach of legal limits for air pollution for well over a decade, and has been ordered by the government to take steps to improve air quality.

Sheffield City Council say they are taking a number of steps to improve air quality, including an electric van trial for businesses and new vehicles charging points across the city.

Plans to create a Clean Air Zone – as has recently launched in Birmingham – are currently "undergoing a review", with no timescale provided.

Clean Air Sheffield are still looking for a location for the light installation, but imagine that at some point it could be displayed in schools and hospitals.

"Something like this needs to be seen by as many people as possible," said Turnbull.

"We're looking for a venue, a ceiling really, which would be about 4m x 4m and 4m in height. The lights could then be arranged to give a spatial representation of the sensors’ locations in Sheffield and even their height above sea level."

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A DIY air pollution sensor used by Clean Air Sheffield.

Clean Air Sheffield.

Clean Air Sheffield are especially keen to install new sensors in these wards:

  • Park & Arbourthorne
  • Birley
  • City
  • Darnall
  • Dore and Totley
  • East Ecclesfield
  • Firth Park
  • Graves Park
  • Mosborough
  • Richmond
  • Shiregreen and Brightside
  • Southey
  • Stannington
  • Stocksbridge and Upper Don
  • West Ecclesfield
  • Woodhouse
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