Did you know we can have better pollution data?

We have lots of real-time information, like the weather. It’s not that easy to find information about pollution. You’d think information showing we’re killing ourselves would top everyone’s list, but it’s not. There must be an easy way to have the data we need at our fingertips.

In this article I will explain:

  • How some information about pollution is available.
  • What we need to improve inaccurate information.
  • How standardised European Union efforts would help.
  • How you can be part of the change.

I

Having this information is a good thing, right? Don’t you want to know how good or bad the air you breathe is?

My only gripe with the data is that it was out of date. I used the Agency’s reports and they used 2015 data. That’s 3 years too late.

Did things get better?
Did things get worse?

This isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have up to date information.

The environment monitoring stations in Malta – (c) EEA Air quality tool

It’s great to see this but the problem is if I’m walking into, say, Valletta and want to see how bad things are, this tool doesn’t always load on my mobile device. (I’m using Chrome on an Android phone. If your experience is better leave a comment below and let me know).

Shouldn’t we be able to get better information in real-time on our phones?

II

I argue we should. We should have an app on our phones giving us real-time data in the same way our weather apps do.

If I had to design such an app it would have the following features:

  1. It should show the situation in my current location.
  2. It should beep or vibrate if the pollution level is dangerous. If you suffer from asthma or some other breathing problem you know how valuable this is.
  3. It should know its position so it can get data from the nearest station. Europe already has a satellite-based positioning system called Galileo which has centimetre-level accuracy. This technology will help find the closest monitoring station. With it I can travel anywhere in Europe and still get the latest local information.

This would be a cool app. Checking pollution levels would be no more complicated than checking the weather. I’d want other obvious things in the app as well, like different languages, but these points are crucial for usefulness.

Pollution information

Now I know what you’re thinking.

You’ve spotted the one flaw in this idea that makes it unusable.

If the recorded data is too vague what’s the point of the app?

III

In Malta there are only four monitoring stations.

Four.

Four.

We have one of the largest ratio of cars to humans in Europe (615 cars per 1000 people) and we only measure pollution in 4 places – Msida, Attard, Zejtun and Għarb. EU auditors noted air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to our health1. We should do better.

What if I’m in Valletta? Or stuck in traffic in Marsa? Or anywhere else?

Environment monitoring stations in Brussels – (c) EEA Air quality tool

Brussels, which is half the size of Malta, has 15 monitoring stations. We definitely can do better. If I were the European Environment Agency I would ask governments to help out by installing monitoring stations in:

  • Schools (This could double up as a useful device for science students’ experiments)
  • Government buildings
  • Construction sites (This could be part of the planning permit conditions)
  • Major traffic junctions

I can think of a few other places where monitoring stations would be useful like ports and roads with high-traffic volume. This list is a good start and it won’t take much to install stations there.

Imagine how much more useful it would be if we could have all that data showing how bad – or good – things are. Once that information is available I would expect people will start acting upon it. I can imagine schools planting a wall of trees around their premises to help offset carbon dioxide readings for example.

Is all this possible? Am I dreaming?

IV

Yes, it is can be done.

Environment monitoring across Europe – (c) EEA Air quality tool

First of all, the Environment Agency needs to have a standardised format for all the data it has. I’ve not seen their databases but I’m guessing they already have some standards. If they didn’t, collecting data from all over Europe would be a headache.

The Agency needs European countries to buy into the idea of more monitoring. The Agency spends close to EUR 20 million per year on earth monitoring2 so they could earmark some spare change to fund some of this.

A photo of Antoine P. Borg, MEP Candidate, against a pale background

Share this article with someone who wants a cleaner tomorrow.

References

  1. Air pollution: citizens’ health still not sufficiently protected, EU Auditors warn; The Malta Independent; 2018-09-13
  2. Statement of revenue and expenditure of the European Environment Agency for the financial year 2018; European Environment Agency; (Retrieved 2019-03-25)

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.


HAVE AN INTEREST, IDEA, OR AN OPINION?

Do you have an interest you’d like to tell others about? Or an opinion you’d like to share with the world? From politics to culture and sports, message us if you would like your articles published!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s