Community-based air quality monitoring


Curious about the quality of the air you breathe? Do you want to know the levels of pollutants in your place of residence, work and exercise or where your children study? Clean Air Platform is piloting a unique exercise – community-based air quality monitoring, as part of a campaign to help the citizens of Bengaluru be aware of what they are breathing. Using air quality diagnostic kits, we will facilitate the measurement of air quality and analysis of pollutants in the place or route of your interest. You could be a citizen group, a civic body, a business, a research institute, or an individual – through a variety of air quality monitoring techniques, we will help you diagnose your air quality, identify issues and devise plans to improve the quality of air you breathe. We will also be documenting your stories to educate and mobilise other citizens on deteriorating air quality and its hazardous effects. We currently have three exciting programmes underway, details of individual projects are given below.

Project NO2: Crowd-sourcing data to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in Bengaluru’s air

Clean Air Platform, in collaboration with Sensing Local, is launching an ambitious programme to involve the citizens of Bengaluru in an exercise to measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at various locations across the city.

A diffusion tube deployed in its holding box in Victoria Layout in BengaluruA diffusion tube deployed in its holding box in Victoria Layout in Bengaluru

Using simple and relatively cheap equipment, participants in the programme can collect samples of air at locations of interest to them, like residential complexes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and lakes, etc. The equipment, know as diffusion tubes, will need to be deployed for a period of two weeks.

Pregnant women and unborn children are disproportionately impacted by NO2, with development of foetuses being hampered by exposure to NO2. This programme is inspired by a project in Antwerp, Belgium where 20,000 participants contributed to generate 17,800 data points on NOlevels.

The participants will receive the equipment and instructions on how to collect the air sample, and Clean Air Platform and Sensing Local staff will provide any assistance required.

This programme is currently in pilot stage, and will be open for participation shortly.

Read more here.

Analysis of heavy metals from PM2.5 samples

In April 2019, Clean Air Platform invited applications to communities and individuals to host a community air sampling exercise. It received close to 100 applications, of which 30 locations across Bengaluru were selected for sampling.

A picture of the air sampler housed at a location. Before and after pictures of filters from two locations.

A device known as a volume sampler is employed for a period of 24 hours which draws, onto a Teflon filter, particulate matter (PM 2.5). The filters are then sent to a certified laboratory for analysis, to check for presence of heavy metals. The device intakes  ~5 litres of air a minute, which is the same amount of air a human being inhales per minute.

Locations for community monitoring across Bengaluru

The reason for heavy metal analysis is due to the extremely toxic nature of these in our air. Bengaluru has one of the highest levels of construction in the country and there is a high presence of road dust which is continually getting re-suspended and inhaled by the people of Bengaluru.

This programme is currently underway, and the results will be available by August.

Assessing individual exposure to PM 2.5

The varied nature of pollution sources in a typical Indian city requires more local monitoring for accurate estimates of what people are actually breathing. Individual exposure to air pollution depends on the level of pollutants in the air as well as the amount of time individuals spend in different environments.

A picture of a jogger running route with time stamp and GPS co-ordinates. On the right is a personal PM monitor that gives real-time readings of PM exposure.

Given this time spent in different environments, also known as time-activity patterns, remains poorly understood, Clean Air Platform plans to undertake the mapping of exposure monitoring to understand:

  1. Who is being exposed? –  Population groups of interest.
  2. Where are they being exposed? – Micro-environments of interest (in their car, traffic junctions, homes, etc.)
  3. What are they exposed to? – Pollutants of interest. (Here we will restrict to PM2.5)
  4. How much are they exposed to? – Frequency & Level of exposure.
  5. How long are they exposed to? – Duration of exposure

3 thoughts on “Community-based air quality monitoring

  1. Dr. Kishalay Banerjee

    The community-based air quality monitoring is a very good initiative and it is very urgent too in the direction towards making Bangalore green, clean and pollution free environment. The city which was once known as retired person’s paradise has lost its old real status, quality and image. Being a victim of air pollution and suffering both of us (above 70 years) from incurable diseases like COPD and Asthma we earnestly feel our children and young people should be fully aware and conscious of the dangers and suffering of chronic respiratory diseases and its impact upon our society.

  2. Sunep

    Along with the RWAs, we need to aggressively try to on-board the various companies across the city so that they can monitor and spread information about air pollution since they are indirectly are a big contributor.

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