How Researchers Are Tackling Urban Air Quality Globally

Man working on city planning for urban air quality

Nowadays, most of the population lives in dense cities. Unfortunately, urban areas are often characterized by high levels of air pollution due to factors such as heavy traffic, industrial activity, and other sources of emissions. 

Worse yet, countless studies have shown that exposure to high levels of air pollution in urban areas can have significant negative impacts on human health. More specifically, air pollution has been linked to various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

To address the issue of urban air quality, several major cities have implemented air quality monitoring programs. Beyond that, they have also taken steps to reduce emissions from various sources. In fact, a 2022 study suggests there may be other ways of tackling city pollution—preserving and creating green spaces. And that's what we're discussing in today's blog.

Urban Air Quality Study in 2022 

In 2022, researchers published a study in Sustainable Cities and Society. In the article, they address the belief that urban green spaces have the potential to mitigate air pollution and improve public health. They collected information using a distributed sensor network of air quality monitors.

These monitors were placed in different locations throughout the city, including residential areas, parks, and urban green spaces. After that, they then analyzed Google Street View images of each location to determine the amount of greenery present.

The green space metrics analyzed included:

  • The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI): A measure of vegetation density.
  • The Green View Index (GVI): A measure of the amount of visible greenery in an area. 

Then, the researchers used statistical models to assess the relationship between green space metrics and air pollution levels. They also examined the influence of other factors, such as traffic density and population density. Finally, they looked at the connection between green spaces and air pollution. 

After looking at the air quality data, they found that areas with more greenery had lower levels of air pollution. This is great news since it suggests that green spaces may help mitigate the negative health impacts of urban air pollution.  

How City Planners Can Address Air Quality  

For city planners, this study is significant because it highlights the potential of urban green spaces. By planting more trees, we can mitigate air pollution levels and improve public health. By preserving and creating green spaces in urban areas, we can create effective strategies to reduce the negative health impacts of air pollution for all residents. 

Additionally, the study underscores the importance of using distributed air quality networks for air quality monitoring in large, metropolitan cities. Traditional air quality monitoring methods typically rely on a limited number of monitors. And those may not capture the spatial variability of air pollution across the city.  

By using a distributed network, researchers in this study were able to collect more comprehensive air quality data. Now, they have a more detailed picture of the relationship between air pollution and green spaces. 

With PurpleAir, even community members can contribute to developing this network, further improving air quality data all over the city. By installing a PurpleAir air quality monitor and connecting it to the PurpleAir Map, you’re helping to create a more comprehensive network. And that helps improve air quality data all over the world.  

Understanding urban air quality through accurate data and air quality research is the critical first step in finding solutions and mitigating air pollution. Air quality and city planning can clearly go hand in hand.  

Get Involved Yourself 

At PurpleAir, there are tons of community projects going on around the world. We’re thrilled to see these kinds of collaborative efforts, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future. Are you working on a community project with PurpleAir’s air quality monitors?  

We would love to hear about it. Share a post in the Community Project forum so we can highlight your work. Together, we can make air quality accessible for everyone.