Ethical evolution of society measured through air quality attention

There are various ways of addressing air pollution. The way countries or communities deal with it shows also the degree of ethical development of the protection of human rights, democracy and respect for the environment.

1. The apathetic approach: Certain middle east countries and many cities around the world are known to have no policy at all for air quality. Those are typically countries and cities where the value of human lives is not considered.

2. The reactive approach:  One can accept pollution as a political and economic consequence and try to deal with it re-actively by introducing cleaning up technology and policy. China is known for its high pollution and introduces now a building that sucks up bad air.

In the Netherlands we joke cynically that modern air quality norms for high volume pig breeding farms are so sterile that positioning such industry in the city center would clean the environment as a consequence. The same goes for car drivers that tend to breath cleaner air inside their vehicles then the people outside having to deal with their exhaust, due to the air filtering techniques applied in cars.

3. The proactive approach: The AiREAS way is a citizen’s initiative to address health and air quality as a permanent innovative impulse to achieve optimum living space for human beings. For us the reactive approach is unacceptable as we place quality of life and the sustainable human progress above economic and political interests.

Ethical evolution:

The above demonstrates three levels of ethical responsibilities. There is an historical tendency to go from apathy to the reactive approach and finally adopt the proactive mentality. The steps have extreme consequences for the type of leadership and citizen’s involvement in the countries. Addressing air quality and human health hence becomes an indicator of modernization, ethical evolution and human rights of a region.

Starting a Local AiREAS in a city

The following document provides you with background information and steps to start a Local AiREAS “healthy city” citizens movement in your city with scientific, industrial and government support. At the bottom you can download all pages in a pdf:

Understanding AiREAS

Understanding AiREAS

Complex tension between systems (nature and economical)

Complex tension between systems (nature and economical)

Smart City and H2020 approach

Smart City and H2020 approach

International 4a

First the ILM measurement system

The start cross referencing data for effects

The start cross referencing data for effects

Trigger citizen's entrepreneurship for change

Trigger citizen’s entrepreneurship for change

Calibrate, focus on quality and results

Calibrate, focus on quality and results

Expand worldwide

Expand worldwide

You can download here the entire AiREAS international pdf

Developing an Automatic System for Mapping Air Quality Risks in Space and Time

Maps4SocietyOur AiREAS partner, the Technical University of Twente, under responsibility of Prof. Alfred Stein and aided by Dr. Nicholas Hamm, has been honored a research project within Maps4Society using the facilities of Local AiREAS Eindhoven and its partnership in our co-creation. The project was one of the 6 honored out of 13. The purpose is of Maps4Society within EU and local context can be seen on its site.

The project title says it all:

Developing an Automatic System for Mapping Air Quality Risks in Space and Time

The fine maze intelligent measurement system (ILM) of AiREAS was realized with the insights and co-creative efforts of Prof. Stein who introduced the spatial issues of modulation, climate, weather types, etc. in the positioning of the Airboxes throughout town. This applied scientific insight is a key part of the quality of the measurement network. the other key value is the technology of low cost, fine maze, real time, multiple fine dust levels, as well as the direct implication of all relevant specialized and functional disciplines of the dynamics of the city (government, science, civilians and entrepreneurial innovators).

But the ILM may deliver a continuous stream of data, the value driven interpretation in relation to public health is still in an early cradle phase of knowledge development and application. This research project is therefor for tremendous value for AiREAS as pushing instrument for “healthy city” co-creation by adding to the particle measurement also a valued health risk assessment in Time and Space.

At the same time phase 2 is being rolled out which does the health follow up through research on the physical body, lifestyle and behavior with the direct involvement of 4000 local citizens.

That’s why we are all enthusiastic about this project. AiREAS was created from scratch ideologically in 2010 and went from 1 person to 2, 3 and then gently to 40,000, growing as a cooperative movement in just 4 years time! It is the first time that an external validation committee granted confidence to AiREAS via our partner ITC, University Twente, a recognized establishment that placed trust and effort into AiREAS right from the beginning. Trust is one of the binding factors of AiREAS and of great reassurance that it is also attracts new resources. If we maintain this quality we will certainly be able expand the culture productively world wide for the benefit of our sustainable human progression.

European benchmarking test

Through our cocreation partner ECN the AiREAS airboxes were present during the European benchmarking and calibration test in Aveiro Portugal.

In the picture you see the camper packed with technology of various innovative companies. The cocreation of AiREAS via ECN proves to be a leading piece of technology in the field of multi measurement of air quality in real time.

The AiREAS Airboxes can be seen on the left hand rear back of the vehicle. More will be reported here soon.

With the use of the Airboxes, combined with scientific insight of positioning the measurement in the field and the expected usage of the data, AiREAS defines purpose driven “healthy city” projects involving local city government, citizens and value driven new age entrepreneurs.

The Airboxes are subject of European H2020 role out of Local City AiREAS. We invite cities to participate in the program where measurements feed all kinds of local AiREAS innovations for “healthy city” development in a multidisciplinary way.

One example of the civilian usage of AiREAS network of Airboxes. The cocreation of healthy bicicle routes through town.

Contact: founder

Phase 2 health triggering program

On october 9th 2013 a general partnership encounter was helt. The first phase was installed and in a stadium of finalization. What next? What steps do we take to create the healthy city, now that we have street level information on air pollution?

Various ideas were presented as reported in this blog. But from acceptance of a proposition to making it happen is a complex process. Dr. Eric de Groot started to organize and budget an 8 year research program to follow 4000 people on health issues. A specific meeting was helt on 11.11.13 with the infrastructure of house docters to see how we could connect.

Ben Nas started to organize the first city quarter event to connect further with citizens. Nicolette Meeder was going forward with STIR Academy in which we captured all we learned in order to exchange it worldwide.

Meanwhile experiences were accumulated with phase 1. We suddenly could do all kinds of citizen’s exercizes that would improve our habitat and quality of life if we put our shoulders under it together. A lot of energy was put into organizing things with true professional social entrepreneurship. But it was not a multidisciplinary project yet. It were all learning processes for the much bigger cocreation.

Smart Cities Europe

The high tech lobby at EU level deployed the Smart City program in which we find the Internet of Things as an important driver of funding programs from Brussels. If we really wanted to go ahead with our impressive social R&D program of over 4000 people we would have to involve EU technological drivers with our social innovation and scientific program.

We decided to include e-Health in the approach together with the physical health analysis, environmental research and stimuluous to trigger citizen’s positive response. The complexity became massive and so was the expected funding.

Proof of Principle
This project had four important pillars that needed to work together:
* the ILM air quality measurement system
* the medical research following peoples health on and offline
* the ICT infrastructure of databases and interpretation
* the massive citizen’s participation

And all together should deliver measurable progress in health and air quality improvement over the years.

The project would never come off the ground if we did not first a smaller Proof of Principle, a miniture version of the huge program with all variables interacting already. We could use the POP to optimize the processes, test alternative choices, structure the relationships, involve feedback and streamline funding requirements. Above all we would make the project visible.

All partners had already invested a huge part in preparations. In July 2014 the local city council committed to funding of the POP doing their part in the teamwork as little else would be expected at this stage from the city governance. Summer was used to finetune the POP program with the key leaders and in September 2014 it was announced formally during the Internet of Things event at the High Tech Campus.


Open data is used for communication experiments

Our BBQ experience

On July 20th 2014 it was a swell evening in Eindhoven. It had this tropical sense of warm humidity after a sunny day. No wind, long day light, ideal for a barbecue with family or friends. It smelled even like popped chestnuts even though it wasn’t the time of the year yet.

It was the friday when all summer holidays for the workforces would start. People massively celebrated their freedom and expectations.

At midnight fog built up over the city. When I got up at 8-ish in the morning on the 21st the fog was still very dense. As by natural automatism I checked the air quality through the mobile app that I was testing. Normally I see just green dots, indicating that air pollution was within the established norms. We disputed these norms but this is what we had today so it was our benchmark for the color coding. Below the norm was green, around was orange and above was red. Our ultrafine dust (PM0.1) measurements for instance always show red because we set the norm at 10k particles per cm2 while measuring reality we always arrive well above between 15k and 40k without counting the peaks. PM 1, 2.5 and 10 seem to be set closer to reality’s average. This does not give any health indication just volume and size of the pollution.

It were the pm 2.5 that blew my mind that morning. This is what I saw:

I had not expected such density and wide spread peak of pollution. Outside I observed still dense fog. What was happening? My first reaction was to contact our supplier and partner ECN. They used an internal tool to pinpoint the curious fact that pollution had built up from midnight onwards, peaking in the morning. What could cause such general outburst of pollution at a time that the city was supposed to at rest?

I contacted the citizen’s network to verify events that could explain this, a massive fire somewhere for instance, and there wasn’t any. The people did come back to me with remarks about respiration and sleep difficulties. Especially people with lung deficiencies had a bad night but others, normally healthy people, also complained about nausia and problems.

The technician of our local public hospital suggested that we had been measuring water droplets of the fog instead of pollution particals. He had a point because the pollution build up showed a parallel with the appearance and density of the fog. Checking this out at the manufacturing partner of the ILM we could largely eliminate this because we dry the air before counting the particles. There did however seem to be a link between the water of the fog and the development of sick making smog.

This is what we had at 10am, 2 hours after the first detection:
* warm holiday evening with many residents still in the city
* barbecue culture with massive usage that evening
* no special events, fires, traffic jams that night
* no wind or rain
* smog peak forming from midnight onwards
* fog development from midnight onwards
* it affected the entire city
* people reporting sickness and respiration problems all night

Adding up all the evidence we came to a preliminary scenario. Fumes of roasted meat and burned coals had accumulated over the city during the evening. The pollution had not been dispursed due to the calm weather. The fumes contain chemicals from the meat that react with the fine dust when in contact with the water of the fog. The particles and chemical reactions made the fine dust heavier, showing it on our equipment. These particular, meat related chemical reactions produced sick making materials in the air over night.

This line of thinking got a surprising backing from the hospital technical department. In the operation chambers wounds would be closed using a burning technique. The fumes would react with the pollution under special conditions, for instance when ionizing the environment to eliminate pollution coming in from the street. Hospital personnel had complained about nausea and respiratory problems under these circumstances.

We blogged about the finding and the newspapers picked it up, locally and nationally. Our scientists still need to verify it and simulations will be done now in labs. From a citizens point of view we now look at valid innovations in the field of bbqs. We will also involve the hospital further in our plans to see how we can further benefit from each other’s experiences and share these with the world and among hospitals themselves.

First experience at new year

With our own calibrated citizens real time network we could look at the city through the eyes of air pollution. The calibration was made official around Christmas time 2013. The first event that spontaneously raised our curiosity was the national fireworks culture around new year.

In Holland people spend a lot of money on fireworks. Tradition refers to the banning of the devil for the coming year by making as much noise as possible. In modern reality we may assume that a religious background has diminished while the fun of creating a spectacle developed.   Regulation allows usage during the last day of the year and new years eve itself. Observation every year has shown intense build up of smoke with the burst of smell of carbide, phosphor, paper burning and other chemicals. How would this show on our new measurement system?

The city map with pollution density at new year

The city map with PM10 pollution density at new year

We observed strong ultra fine dust and fine dust peaks throughout the city. It was interesting to see the spread which was equivalent to the areas where citizens show most firework activity. Such peak is different from the usual traffic related averages. The first firework peak was just after dinnertime on new years eve. The biggest peak however was at new year of course and lasted for about 1 hour. The peaks were dispersed rapidly.

The peak registration at one of the stations

The peak registration at one of the stations

Being our first observation it became interesting to consider to what invisible danger we expose our youngsters? Young and male is traditionally the profile that is most active with fire crackers, surrounded by friends, neighbors and family. The UFP (ultra fine particle) are smaller than a virus and have proven to be extremely dangerous, causing all kinds of infections when caught in the cells of our organs. Scientists have averaged long term exposure over a particular time period when dealing with the larger fine dust (pm2.5 +). But with the infectious probabilities of UFP in our bodies this averaging should most certainly be reviewed.

The UFP of all 5 stations where it is measured

The UFP of all 5 stations where it is measured

Our bodies do have defense mechanisms do combat virus or bacteria but not for the non organic dead infectious particles. An infection may ex-pulse an intruder but also can cause the origins of cancer, damage artery walls causing the accumulation of artery fats and eventually coronary and heart failure. Also our lungs are infected and a recent study revealed brain damage that causes behavioral disorder, aggression and eventually mental problems such as Alzheimer.

The summing up of all these consequences does make us wonder if the explosions really ban out the devil or invites him into our system? Our most vulnerable population, our youngest adults, is exposed for a short period of time to a tremendous peak of invisible danger. Our observations were expressed in the news paper with the first question: what to do?

Many other cities in the world already structured fire works in a professional way, concentrating it at place where large populations could enjoy the magic of the colors and explosion but not at the expense of their health. Other ideas arose to see if the pollution could be avoided by involving high tech laser techniques and holograms in the shows?