Children test the air for pollutants in Brighton science project

Dr Mark Richards and schoolchildren monitor air pollution

Imperial scientists gather air pollution data with the help of Brighton school children - News

by Simon Levey
Wednesday 1 February 2012

Children from Brighton have been testing the air quality in their school playgrounds to monitor how pollution from neighbouring roads might affect them and their environment.

The primary school pupils are measuring the levels of airborne pollutants at different times of the day, and at different locations in and around their school, and learning about how the pattern of air quality relates to external factors such as the weather, local industry and the number of cars passing by or stopping at the school.

With the help of Imperial physicist Dr Mark Richards, Year 6 pupils from Elm Grove Primary are using monitoring devices that detect nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), airborne molecules that are known to be harmful to human health and the environment.

The air quality results from monitoring stations at the roadside and in the school are being displayed on plasma screens inside the school, where pupils have been closely studying how pollution levels vary in real time. Community scientists from the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project visited the school during May and June 2011 to engage the students in activities and discussions about the environmental impact of air pollution and its significance for local biodiversity. The project continues in 2012, with pollution monitors in a third Brighton school, St Bartholomew's Primary.

Dr Richards said: "There's a lot that scientists don't yet know about air pollution and how it moves around in urban environments. Thanks to our project, the kids can analyse pollution data, pretty much like a scientist does, and make their own decisions about what air quality means to them. They could even decide when is best to go out to play in the school grounds based on the pollution levels."

Watch a video made by Brighton & Hove City Council, in which Dr Mark Richards and OPAL community scientists visit Elm Grove Primary School to monitor the quality of the air.

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