Citizen science air quality project in Brussels reveals disparity in pollution levels

Article by Smart Cities World: “A citizen science air quality project in Brussels has revealed a striking disparity in air pollution levels across the city.

It shows socio-economically vulnerable neighbourhoods more likely to suffer from poor air quality. The dataset also shows air quality in the city has improved, but there is still a major health impact.

Between 25 September and 23 October 2021, 3,000 citizens participated in CurieuzenAir, the largest ever citizen science project on air quality in the Belgium capital…

The project is an initiative of the University of Antwerp, urban movement BRAL and Université libre de Bruxelles, in close cooperation with Brussels Environnement, De Standaard, Le Soir and Bruzz. This programme is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Brussels Clean Air Partnership.

For one month, citizen scientists mapped the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a key indicator of air pollution caused by traffic – in their streets via measuring tubes on the facades of their homes.

The project resulted in a unique dataset showing the impact of road traffic on air quality in Brussels in great detail. Results range from ‘excellent’ to “extremely poor” air quality across Brussels, with a stark contrast in air quality between socio-economically vulnerable neighbourhoods and green, well-off ones.

An interactive dot map shows how the air quality differs greatly from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and even from street to street. From blue dots (0-15 µg m-3; “very good”) to a number of jet-black dots (>50 µg m-3; “extremely bad”), the CurieuzenAir dataset makes it clear that these differences are explained by emissions from Brussels traffic….

Alain Maron, Brussels minister for climate transition, environment, social affairs and health, said: “CurieuzenAir is a great example of the importance of citizen science. Thanks to all the citizens that took part in the project, we collected unprecedented results on air pollution in Brussels, which help us to better understand the problem in our city.

“While we see that the situation is slowly improving, the concentrations measured still remain unacceptable, and call for urgent, in-depth action. We need to make sure that everyone in the city, wherever they live and whatever they earn, get to breathe a clean and healthy air.”…(More)”.