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Citizen science air quality monitoring project launched in Brussels

CurieuzenAir allows citizens in the Belgium capital to collect high-quality data in their street by attaching a small “real estate panel” to a window at the front of their house.

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Families, companies, associations and schools can measure air quality in their own street.
Families, companies, associations and schools can measure air quality in their own street.

Brussels has launched what claims to be Europe’s largest citizen science project on air quality.

 

CurieuzenAir will mobilise thousands of citizens to map the air quality levels across the Brussels-Capital Region with professional guidance by scientists.

 

The launch coincides with the lead-up to the EU Green Week 2021 (31 May-4 June). The initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Brussels Clean Air Partnership.

 

3,000 locations

 

Through simultaneous measurements at 3,000 different locations, CurieuzenAir aims to map the air quality across the Brussels-Capital Region with “unprecedented” spatial detail. To this end, families, companies, associations and schools will be given the opportunity to measure the air quality in their own street.

 

From now through to 13 June, they can register for CurieuzenAir to receive one of the 3,000 measuring kits being made available. The measurements will take place during a four-week period beginning on 25 September. The pilot project intends to serve as a pioneering example for replication across other European cities.

 

CurieuzenAir allows citizens to collect high-quality data by attaching a small “real estate panel” to a window at the front of their house. Inside the “nose” of the panel there are two test tubes, which determine the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an indicator for traffic-related pollution, in the outside air. The real-estate panel remains in place for four weeks. The resulting data will undergo strict quality control and be calibrated against the 11 permanent air quality stations of Brussels Environment.

 

CurieuzenAir brings together universities, NGOs, government agencies and media partners in a science-based, coordinated initiative on air quality. Those behind the project believe that CurieuzenAir citizens can help science take a big step forward, especially since air quality differs strongly from one location to the next due to the so-called “street canyon” effect. In a narrow and busy street, pollutants linger for longer and the air quality worsens. At the same time, just around the corner in a nearby park or open space, the air quality can be remarkably better.

“This will allow us to establish a science-based policy to reduce air pollution, in order to improve the quality of life of those living, working or visiting Brussels”

Because air quality can vary so widely, mapping it across the Brussels-Capital Region requires many measurements in a great number of places. By jointly measuring the air quality at 3,000 locations across Brussels, citizens can help to solve a challenging scientific problem.

 

CurieuzenAir aims to generate an internationally unique dataset that provides insight into the exposure and health impacts of air pollution. This data will help to better inform clean air policies and be used by Brussels Environment to improve air quality models. This way CurieuzenAir innovatively contributes to the EU’s new Zero Pollution Action Plan that places great emphasis on improving air quality with broad citizen engagement.

 

“I am delighted that so many inhabitants of Brussels have the opportunity to conduct air quality measurements themselves,” said Alain Maron, Brussels minister for climate transition, environment, social affairs and health. “The data from CurieuzenAir will provide a detailed insight in the air quality across Brussels, as well as the associated health effects. This will allow us to establish a science-based policy to reduce air pollution, in order to improve the quality of life of those living, working or visiting Brussels.”

 

Citizen engagement

 

The air quality data will be collected under the professional guidance of scientists from the University of Antwerp, while the socio-economic analysis within the project will be directed by the Université Libre de Bruxelles. The city movement Bral that strives for a sustainable Brussels, will assist with engaging citizens and local communities in the project.

 

Bral’s Florence Lepoudre said: “We have already been working for years with the citizens of Brussels to improve the air quality. CurieuzenAir is the next important step for us. The expertise on large-scale citizen science provided by the University of Antwerp makes this a unique project for Brussels.”

 

The initiative is part of the Brussels Clean Air Partnership, a collaboration launched in October 2020 between Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brussels-Capital Region Government, and Brussels Environment, to galvanise local and international partners to improve air quality through innovation, research and monitoring, citizen engagement, and education programmes.

“The expertise on large-scale citizen science provided by the University of Antwerp makes this a unique project for Brussels”

“CurieuzenAir, the largest citizen science project in Europe, brings together citizens, researchers, government leaders, and low-cost technologies to monitor air quality throughout the city,” said Antha Williams, global head of environment programmes, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

 

“Bloomberg Philanthropies is proud to collaborate with our partners in Brussels and hope this project sets an example that cities across the continent can draw on as they build a cleaner, healthier future.”

 

Brussels citizens can register their interest in participating in the CurieuzenAir project until 13 June at www.curieuzenair.brussels.

 

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