press release
Published: 17 January 2024

Help people monitor their own air quality to save lives, say pollution experts

Empowering the public to monitor pollution in their communities could lead to cleaner air, say researchers from the University of Surrey.

During a five-month study, scientists from Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) worked with volunteers from Zero Carbon Guildford to create a new way of monitoring air quality in real-time. The data made the public more aware of pollution levels. The team hopes similar projects can empower communities to improve their air.

 The team installed ten low-cost sensors in the Zero Carbon Guildford building, a large public space in the town centre. The public had asked for live air pollution data, which researchers presented using a newly designed system. Emojis represented the levels of pollution, from “good” to “very high”. 

Researchers found that large gatherings led to more dust in the air and more CO2, thanks to more people breathing it out. At peak times, high air pollution in the street outside led to a rise in smaller particles inside the building, too. 

 Members of the public then got tips on how to improve air quality through an interactive quiz.

Polluted air causes around 7 million premature deaths a year. This collaborative work is a leading example of how to help local communities understand the situation where they live and work. This empowers them to solve their own air quality challenges.

Our approach does not cost much, but could transform public health for millions.
Ben McCallan, former chair of Zero Carbon Guildford and co-author of the study.
Ben McCallan

The study demonstrates Surrey’s contribution to UN Sustainability Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.

The research is published in the journal Sustainable Horizons.

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