During CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen, twenty thousand homes, businesses and schools across Flanders measured the levels of NO2, an important indicator for air pollution caused by traffic, in their street. In May 2018, the participants had the measuring apparatus, which consisted of a folding board with two tubes, installed to a window on the first floor of their building. At the end of the month, the project researchers analyzed the data and published a map with details on air quality across the whole region.
Air quality can vary significantly over short distances, especially due to the street canyon effect (pollutants accumulate to higher concentrations in narrow, poorly ventilated streets with intense traffic density). Because air quality is so spatially variable, many measurement locations are required to properly assess the predictive capacity of air quality models. Thanks to the many volunteers, CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen ("Curious Noses Flanders") was able to collect an enormous dataset of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) measurements. The goal of obtaining this large dataset was to improve the predictive capabilities of the state-of-the-art ATMOSYS computer model that is currently used to assess air quality in Flanders. This allowed for better estimations of the population exposure to NO2 and its effect on public health, which could be used to provide better information and recommendations to policy makers. In addition, CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen aimed to increase public awareness of the importance of air quality for a healthy environment, and wanted to stress the need and importance of performing reliable air quality measurements.