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Assessing air quality through citizen science

Assessing air quality through citizen science

Assessing air quality through citizen science
Main author of this report was Anke Lükewille

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Año: 2020

The EEA report ‘Assessing air quality through citizen science’ presents successful examples of using simple low-cost devices to measure local air pollution levels. The report also briefly explains how these devices work, summarises their reliability, and highlights the potential of such devices to address questions about air quality.

The EEA report shows that citizen science initiatives can produce useful information about local air quality. Such information can be used, for example, to improve official air quality models used to estimate pollution levels and identify suitable actions to improve air quality. The initiatives often also help to raise public awareness of air quality problems, which can lead to stronger public measures to address the issue or changes in personal behaviour, such as switching from driving to walking or cycling.

However, the various types of measuring devices each have different benefits and disadvantages and users should be aware of their limitations, the EEA report cautions. Although some devices are relatively reliable, low-costs sensors can for example, be sensitive to weather conditions or lack the capacity to measure very high or very low pollutant concentrations.

In the near future, the increasing number of citizen science initiatives focused on air pollution, coupled with new data digitalisation approaches, may represent a paradigm shift in the way that air quality is monitored, the EEA report states. A large network of low-cost sensors, combined with statistical analysis or machine learning, could complement the quality of the current official data and provide new pathways to obtain accurate, real-time information.

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