Measuring air quality now as easy as…child’s play

Bernard van Leer Foundation
Small in size but potentially of huge importance – that’s the AirBeam Swap, a revolutionary new tool that collects data and raises awareness of air quality and its importance for babies, toddlers and their caregivers.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation Urban95 project has developed this potentially vital device that both monitors air quality particles and enables the results to be mapped – making it something that could be of huge importance in cities and urban centres.

Members of the programme have already signed up to use the device and, since January, have been monitoring its effectiveness as part of a three month trial. The idea is to collect air quality in a variety of urban neighbourhoods and then pass it onto the next participant.

The foundation says that the aim is to ‘create a sense of community within and across the areas that are participationg’. The results of the trials will be pulled together later this year.

The Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Brazil, Turkey, India, Spain, Georgia, Peru, Malaysia, Colombia, Jordan, United States, Russia, Israel, Ecuador, Kenya and Indonesia were represented by around 80 air quality advocates at a virtual launch event, along with Michael Heimbender, the founder and executive director of HabitatMap and the AirBeam. Around 120 people responded to the foundation’s online call for applications to the trial project.

Asked by the foundation about their monitoring plans, one participant said: My idea would be to bring the monitor everywhere I go on a daily basis.” Another said: “Near my house there is a main road and a park, and I am interested in the quality of the air there.” Participants will measure air quality on the journey from their homes to their children’s school, on the streets near childcare facilities, and in playgrounds and parks in various cities and neighbourhoods around the globe.

Ankita Chachra, the knowledge for policy director at the foundation, said the aim of the project was ‘to increase awareness about the importance of clean air for the health and brain development of babies and toddlers (and) to share data and experiences with peers (and) generate evidence for local activism’.

Participants in the trial are being encouraged to share images of their experiences via social media.

For more information on the project email

Author: Simon Weedy

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