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Citizen scientists gauge air quality in Galway


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Citizen scientists gauge air quality in Galway Citizen scientists gauge air quality in Galway

More than 300 people across Galway City are taking part in a project to measure air quality – which will be used to highlight pollution blackspots threatening human health.

Clean Air Together involves volunteers installing measurement tubes in their properties to measure the traffic-based air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for the next four weeks.

Air pollution in Ireland leads to the premature death of three people on average every day. The levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – attributed to burning solid fuel in homes – and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) (mainly from road transport) remain the main threats to good air quality.

While the levels of PM2.5 and NO2 are within the current EU legal limits, they exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality guidelines for health, which particularly affects people with asthma and respiratory conditions.

The project was inspired by an experiment called CurieuzeNeuzen (Curious Noses) in Belgium – the largest ever European Air Quality test. The same citizen science project was carried out in Dublin and Cork over the last two years.

A spokesperson from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the data from Clean Air Together will provide important information about air quality data.

“But more importantly, participants in Galway City will be playing an active part in developing a better picture of – and learning more about – air pollution in their own city. When the project is completed, a map showing the results will be published on the project’s website in early 2024, allowing everyone to compare results right across the city.”

The measurement tube must be place outside their chosen location from October 2 to October 26. They will then take down their tube and post it back in a self-addressed pre-paid envelope to the EPA laboratory for analysis. The participant will get their results which will then be used to create an interactive map displaying all the results and allowing the public to compare NO2 levels compare across Galway City.

“The data from Clean Air Together Galway City will be combined with air quality data from the EPA’s monitoring network to give a bigger and better picture of air quality in Galway. These data points will be used to check EPA air quality computer models. This will be used to increase awareness of air quality, inform and affect policy and change attitudes to air quality issues.

“The project also aims to encourage behavioural change that will lead to better air quality for us all.”

In the short term, poor air quality can cause temporary illnesses such as headaches, breathing difficulties or eye irritation. Over the long term, it can contribute to more serious illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and lung cancer.

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