Citizen science initiative CleanAir@School

Page Last modified 23 Nov 2020
2 min read
More and more European citizens are engaging in air quality monitoring by using so-called low cost measurement devices. The primary goal of such ‘citizen science’ initiatives is to raise awareness of the links between air pollution and health, mainly in cities where most Europeans live. CleanAir@School is a joint initiative of the European Network of the Heads of Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) and the EEA. Under the initiative, citizens are monitoring air quality around schools across Europe using a common approach.

Background and objectives

CleanAir@School was launched at a meeting of the EPA Network in Dublin in April 2018, and runs until the end of 2019.

The initiative uses citizen science campaigns to better understand children’s exposure to a key air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in the school environment across Europe. Children at participating schools learn about air pollution and health effects, while both pupils and their parents see how road transport affects air quality. A key question is whether, in the light of this knowledge, parents shift away from bringing their children by car to school. Participating environmental protection agencies engage with local communities and explain how they work to improve air quality.

On a more technical note, the initiative explores how data collected by citizens might complement ‘official’ air quality monitoring to communicate and improve understanding of local air quality. At a European level, this can support the European Commission’s efforts to streamline environmental reporting, in particular to ‘promote the wider use of citizen science to complement environmental reporting’.

To ensure comparability across the campaigns, they all include common elements.

  • EPAs identify the participating schools and implement the initiative at local level.
  • Air quality is monitored using NO2 passive samplers, with at least two sampling points located at each school.
  • One sampler must be placed on the road at the front of the school, and one in a less polluted area such as the backyard. This allows the campaigns to monitor the effect of road transport emissions at the school gate.
  • In terms of timing, NO2 should be measured for at least four weeks, ideally in the spring and/or autumn.

Participating environmental protection agencies:

  • Belgium/Flanders
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • Malta
  • Estonia
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • UK/Scotland
  • UK/Wales
  • Italy

Observer environmental protection agencies:

  • Iceland
  • Switzerland

To raise awareness of CleanAir@School, the environmental protection agencies are engaging pupils, teachers, and parents in project implementation. Once the measurement campaigns are complete, the agencies will explain the results and run surveys at each school to assess changes in awareness and in the mode of transport used by parents and older pupils.

EEA plays a coordinating role in the project, bringing partners together to share best practice and agree on a common approach to ensure, as far as possible, comparability of results.

Regarding data reporting, EEA will collate and present the measurement results on this online viewer. EEA is also exploring options to compare the data from official air quality measurement stations located close to the schools with the data obtained from the citizen science measurements. This will enable EEA and the environmental protection agencies to interpret the results from the schools in the broader context of air quality in the surrounding area.  

See also

Cleaner air for Europe


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage




Filed under:
Filed under: air quality, air pollution
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