Clean air where you live?

Monday May 26, 2014 20:52

In Eindhoven they know. Locals can follow air quality data for the Dutch “city of light” online, in real time. Last year, it became the first place to introduce AirBoxes to measure concentrations of particulate matter. Now is the time for more towns and cities to follow. Time for councils to join hands with residents, businesses and scientists to keep their communities healthy.

Making the invisible visible
Airborne particulate matter (PM) can be dangerous, especially for the elderly and cardiovascular patients. That is why the European Union has set both limits and target values for air quality. In the Netherlands we measure compliance with these at the national level, but little has so far been done locally. There is now an affordable solution, though, and ECN has helped develop it. As the name suggests, the AirBox is a small box containing sensors which measure air quality on a permanent basis.

AiREAS, the Eindhoven experiment
Eindhoven introduced 35 AirBoxes in autumn 2013. They measure PM and ultrafine particles (UFPs), with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) monitoring to be added soon. Thirty boxes are installed at fixed points around the city, hung from lampposts, with the other five kept in reserve as mobile units for use during events or emergencies. Updated every ten minutes, the data they record is available online at

Thanks to this system, residents can track levels of polluting particles in their own neighbourhoods. It also reveals just how much road traffic affects the air quality in a particular area. And the results from 31 December 2013 proved especially interesting. Throughout New Year’s Eve there were peaks in PM levels, apparently due to fireworks. The greatest amounts were measured along Boschdijk, one of Eindhoven’s main traffic arteries, and the biggest peak occurred at about 12.30am. A scientific analysis of the causes of these observations and their effects will be made available later this year.

Health communities
Businesses, scientists and students are all contributing to the Eindhoven experiment. Philips developed the UFP sensor, whilst the PM sensor, the NO2 sensor and the AirBox itself are made by ECN. Imtech developed the data platform for the measurement data. The University of Twente has been helping with geomodelling, and Utrecht University is using the resulting data in its health research. The City of Eindhoven and the Province of Noord-Brabant have also been involved since the outset.

We are proud of the success of the AirBox and the results of the AiREAS experiment. Interested in introducing the system in your area? Or in its technical potential? Then please do contact us.

Category: Mei, Environment