Citizens’ air quality checks expand to three cities

One of Europe’s biggest citizen-led air quality monitoring projects is being re-launched early next year and will cover a third city in Italy. T&E member Cittadini per l’Aria (Citizens for Clean Air) drew up a series of air pollution maps in 2017 around Milan, and in 2018 added Rome. It is now undertaking a bigger monitoring exercise in February involving Naples.

Italy has topped the European rankings for mortalities related to nitrogen oxides (NO2) pollution, with 14,600 premature deaths a year. Now Cittadini per l’Aria is calling for volunteers to place passive sampler tubes that measure NO2 in front of homes, schools and workplaces for 30 days at a time. With the aid of machine-learning technology, the data collected will allow maps to be drawn up showing the worst pollution spots.

Since the project started, Milan has introduced limited bans on diesel cars, but the overall problem in Italy continues. So now Cittadini per l’Aria is looking for 3,000 volunteers, 1,000 each in Milan, Rome and Naples. All they have to do is place the tube 2.5 metres above ground outside their home, school or workplace, and leave it there for the month of February. The new air pollution maps should be ready by May.

Cittadini per l’Aria’s president Anna Gerometta said: ‘The power of the citizens is important in this monitoring in two respects. Firstly, we make this into a scientific monitoring exercise where the data is collected by the citizens and then processed by a laboratory. Secondly, the maps that result from this monitoring will give each citizen their own concentrations of NO2 based on the levels recorded at the monitoring points, which will tell them their own additional risk linked to the exposure to NO2.

‘We will also present our maps to the municipal authorities in the three cities. In Rome and Naples we need new regulations to stop NO2 pollution at source. For Milan we already have some measures, but they need better enforcement, and our maps should provide the political pressure to ensure that diesel bans from city centres are respected and not ignored.’

Anyone wanting to take part can sign up at Cittadiniperlaria.org. The original one-city monitoring in 2017 involved 200 volunteers, while the two-city exercise in 2018 featured 1,000 volunteers.