Collaborative project to educate communities on air quality

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Air quality experts from the University of Stirling have launched a new collaborative project to help communities understand how they contribute to air pollution in their local area.

Working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Stirling Council, the team is currently monitoring air quality in Aberfoyle, as part of phase one of the study. The project – which will run until March 2023 – will then move on to Doune and Deanston, Thornhill, Kippen and Fintry.

In each village, data is collected over a one-month period, using lamppost-mounted air quality monitors and low-cost sensors deployed by residents.

A team from the University will host a series of community engagement events in each location, aiming to empower communities to take ownership of local air quality monitoring. These events will provide information on air pollution, its potential sources, and effects. Data from the local monitoring network will be presented and residents will be able to consider actions they may wish to take to reduce their own emissions and help reduce air pollution within their neighbourhoods.

Local schools will be encouraged to participate in the project with educational resources, access to SEPA’s air pollution experts and the chance to monitor pollution levels themselves. Participating schools will be encouraged to think about how they may take steps to reduce emission and improve air quality, linking such actions to the wider environmental issues, including climate change.

Amy McCarron leans on a bannister. She has long, dark hair and is weather a floral patterned top.

Amy McCarron is working on the project

Amy McCarron, of the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: “Air pollution is the world’s greatest single environmental health threat, leading to serious health impacts. Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air however, since it is largely invisible, they aren’t aware of it and the harm it may be having on their health. 

“Public involvement in environmental issues such as air pollution is essential for long-term, sustainable and positive change. This project will help to raise public awareness of local air quality by hosting a series of community engagement events in villages across Stirlingshire.”

SEPA will manage the project, developing visual tools for the public to view the data. Graham Applegate, SEPA’s Principal Policy Officer for Air Quality, said: “Improving air quality is something we all have a role to play in, as well as helping to tackle environmental pollution in general. Projects like this can enable communities to learn about air pollution and air quality in their area, as well as the issues which can influence it and the actions that can be taken to make improvements.

“Good air quality is essential for a good quality of life, helping maintain human health and wellbeing and our climate and habitats. It also has a vital role to play in our work towards achieving net zero.”

The outputs of the project will also feed into work being carried out on public engagement and behaviour change under the Scottish Government’s current Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 Strategy.

The next community engagement event in Aberfoyle will take place on Saturday, 5 November at 10am at the Strathard Hub.

The events in Doune and Deanston will take place:

  • Thursday, 10 November (7:30pm–9pm), Rural Hall, Doune
  • Saturday, 3 December (10am-1pm), Information Centre, Doune
  • Saturday, 10 December (10am-1pm), Information Centre, Doune

Future events in Thornhill, Kippen and Fintry will be announced in due course.

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