A citizen science and awareness project in to measure air pollution exposure in Bengaluru

Bengaluru, April 23, 2019: To raise awareness on bad air quality and the impact it has on health, a unique campaign has been launched, which will crowd-source data on the air pollution exposure that various citizens face, at different locations in Bengaluru. The initiative by Clean Air Platform (CAP), invites individuals, organisations and groups to participate in various citizen-science activities in the coming months, which will also help create awareness on exposure.

“One of the major challenges is making people aware that while the ambient air quality levels in Bengaluru might appear satisfactory, these mask the real picture on pollution in the city,” explains Yogesh Ranganath, CEO, CAP. “Exposure levels indicate what one is breathing, are more location and time specific, and tell you actual levels of pollution your body is facing. We felt it was very important that the citizens realise the extent of bad air they are breathing, and ensure that they take the required precautions to protect themselves.”

The campaign, called #WhatAreYouBreathing, uses three innovative ways to measure and highlight exposure.

The first approach measures the level of exposure various citizens face to PM2.5, a pollutant so tiny that it escapes the body’s defence mechanism and enters the blood stream through the lungs, causing devastating health impacts. The health effects include heart and lung diseases and even effects on the brain, and are found to be exacerbated in children and the elderly. Individuals participating in this exercise will wear a small portable measuring device, which will record exposure while they go through their usual activities like jogging, commute to work, dropping children to school, etc.

The second component of the campaign, aims to understand the composition of the air we are breathing. This will involve collection of samples of air from various locations across the city, based on pre-decided criteria, and analyse the pollutants same for the presence on heavy metals.

“Detecting heavy metals in ambient air helps establish specific sources of pollution. This knowledge is important to develop targeted policies and interventions for point and non-point sources. For instance, in Delhi, the presence of Barium around Diwali clearly established the link between air pollution and firecrackers. Whereas in Raipur, the presence of Manganese and Zinc points to the sponge iron units around the city”, says Shweta Narayan, Coordinator, Healthy Energy Initiative – India, a partner on the project.

The third component will involve crowdsourcing of data on Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at locations like schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and lakes, etc. Pregnant women and unborn children are disproportionately impacted by NO2, with development of foetuses being hampered. This exercise draws inspiration from a street science project in Belgium, where 20,000 participants contributed to generate 17,800 data points on NO2 levels.

All the details for this campaign are available on the link mentioned below, where those interested in participating can also sign up.

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