Four AQMesh pods are to be deployed at individual remote monitoring locations near schools in Kitchener, forming a small network to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and carbon dioxide (CO2). A fifth one will be co-located with the provisional air quality monitoring station.
The collaborative research project between the City of Kitchener, Wilfrid Laurier University and Hemmera Envirochem Inc aims to compare air pollution levels around some of the city’s schools throughout the academic year and quieter summer season, to assess how local pollution is affected by idling vehicles.
Leading the project is Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh, researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University, who received a $50,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to fund the installation of the AQMesh pods.
NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 are particularly harmful pollutants. Long-term exposure to NO2 can worsen asthma and reduce lung function. PM2.5 and PM10 are small airborne particles and are mostly formed in urban areas from vehicle fumes and construction equipment. PM2.5 particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and are linked to lung disease, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
This pollution is particularly dangerous for young people; studies show that exposure to PM2.5 can impair childhood lung development, and Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh expects the study to show that pollutant levels increase during the typical school pick up and drop off times.
“Studying air quality around schools is important, since students spend so much of their day there” she comments. “I was shocked to learn this region has just one provincial air monitoring station. We need more”
She added, “If we can provide data that shows an increase in pollutants during these times, it could help speed up the electrification of the transit system.”
It is possible that the results of the study would also encourage parents to walk or cycle to school, or turn to electric cars. The City of Kitchener may also consider implementing new idling laws to help reduce exposure to pollution.
Ultimately, Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh would like to create a large network of local monitoring stations with citizen scientists in order to generate real-time pollution maps, much like initiatives in other global cities such as the Breathe London network in the UK, which uses 100 AQMesh pods as part of its hyperlocal air quality monitoring network across the city.
The five AQMesh pods are being supplied and supported by North American AQMesh distributor, Ambilabs.