Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


EU research project proves that personal choice can dramatically improve urban air quality


Stop smoking and leave your car at home. Encouraging people in cities to make simple lifestyle changes, such as using alternative forms of transport to the car, can significantly reduce their exposure to harmful air pollutants. The findings of the first in a series of Europe-wide air quality studies was announced today in Brussels by European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Didier Gosuin, Environment Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region. The first phase of the “Population Exposure to Air Pollutants In Europe” (PEOPLE) project took place in Brussels during a 12-hour period last October, using 125 volunteers carrying special sensors to monitor their levels of exposure to benzene, a carcinogenic substance produced by traffic and smoking. Similar surveys have also been conducted in Lisbon, Bucharest and Ljubljana.

Figure 1: Map showing maximum exposure zones and benzene distribution levels in Brussels on the day of the campaign (22 October)

Figure 2: Relative influence of the variables considered in the personal exposure model

Announcing the results of the project, Commissioner Buquin said: “Air quality laws can only truly be effective if they are understood and endorsed by those they are meant to protect – European citizens. Research projects such as PEOPLE are key to providing decision-makers, environment and health professionals, as well as the general public, with a clearer understanding of urban air pollution and its impact on health. The knowledge gained by this important research will help us to shape our decisions on traffic and transport issues and encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Leaving the car at home can improve your quality of life

Benzene is a carcinogen responsible among others for leukaemia. It is found in petrol and is generated by urban traffic. It is also a good indicator for other traffic pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Benzene monitoring therefore points to exposure to other pollutants and is the first carcinogen to be regulated by EU air quality directives. PEOPLE clearly identifies tobacco smoking and traffic emissions as factors increasing levels of exposure. PEOPLE also confirms that the active participation of local authorities and the general public is essential for implementing the EU air quality legislation.

Brussels volunteers get personal with cutting-edge research methods

Some 125 Brussels residents participated in the pilot stage of the PEOPLE project in Brussels on 22 October 2002. Participants were selected according to well-defined criteria: non-smokers unexposed to traffic (control group), smokers, people using private transport, public transport commuters, cyclists and walkers.

Participants carried a sensor for 12 hours to assess their personal level of exposure to benzene. Measurements were also taken over a 24-hour period at a wide range of indoor locations – such as homes, offices, shops, schools, bars and restaurants and public transport. Volunteers carried a newly developed passive sampler enabling short-term measurements.

Towards a benzene-free city?

The tests showed that benzene concentrations in people’s houses were twice that of the city background air with a median value of 6.4 micrograms per cubic meter; in bars the benzene concentration was high, median value of 10.8 micrograms per cubic meter; and in cars, median value of 27.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

Outdoor measurements were also taken to assess the levels and distribution of benzene throughout the city. Complementing the passive sampler measurements, data from a monitoring network was used to assess the yearly average concentration of the pollutant.

On the day of the campaign pollution levels in Brussels complied with the yearly average value of 5 micrograms per cubic meter, limit set by Directive 2000/69/EC, except in areas with dense traffic. Measurements from the continuous monitoring network show that benzene levels in Brussels in 2003 as being approximately half those observed ten years ago.

Calling more people to participate in PEOPLE survey

Benzene emissions studies were also conducted in Lisbon (22 October 2003) and more recently in Bucharest and Ljubljana (27 May 2003), and will be followed by further campaigns in Madrid and Bucharest (autumn 2003). The study will be extended to other cities in 2004. Belgrade, Dublin, Paris, and Rome have all expressed interest in being associated with the project. PEOPLE will be extended to other toxic pollutants in the future, placing emphasis on particulates. The Commission, in co-operation with local authorities, invites volunteers to participate in the next steps of the project.

More information about the PEOPLE project may be found at:

| European Commission
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>