Air Pollution

Eindhoven shows how municipalities can filter out air pollution

Eindhoven provides a case study into multistakeholder collaboration to reduce air pollution.

Eindhoven provides a case study into multistakeholder collaboration to reduce air pollution.

Bas Henzing
Senior Business Developer, TNO
Ruben Goudriaan
Project Manager, TNO
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Air Pollution

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • With exposure to toxic air widespread in Europe, drastic measures are required to meet WHO air quality guidelines by 2030.
  • Cities and regions can leverage data to determine where, when, and from which sources people are exposed to polluted air in order to take cost-effective measures.
  • Eindhoven provides a case study into multistakeholder collaboration to reduce air pollution.

Poor outdoor air quality is a significant environmental health issue. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can alleviate the burden of diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases. Addressing air pollution is crucial for protecting public health.

We can achieve the greatest health impact by tackling particulate matter. According to the WHO air quality guidelines, particulate matter concentrations shouldn’t exceed the daily average limit of PM2.5 on more than four days per year. In 2022, all municipalities in the Netherlands often exceeded WHO’s daily PM2.5 limit, some of them on 60 to 70 days per year.

Have you read?

Combining air quality map data with population maps shows where poor-quality air actually has an impact. Determining which sources expose people most to polluted air gives policy-makers the information needed to take effective action with maximum impact. All this information is integrated into TNO’s five-step approach to improving air quality for better human health:

1. Mapping air quality

It starts with monitoring municipality air quality in the most optimum manner. To achieve this, local measurements are fully integrated in a comprehensive model system, taking into account emissions, weather and atmospheric chemistry.

2. Impact on health

In order to take effective action and invest in targeted health gains, it’s important to know where and when citizens are most exposed to polluted air. Combining anonymized mobile data with air quality data shows where and when people are most exposed to polluted air.

3. Tracing the source

This step involves determining which sources contribute to the exposure. Combining different measurements with modelling reveals which local and other sources contribute to poor air quality and population exposure, including traffic, industry, households and restaurants.

4. Measures

Now targeted measures can be looked at – such as relocating industry, creating car-free zones, or mandating exhaust systems to improve air quality – and their potential effects can be calculated and visualized.

5. Evaluating effects

After implementing measures, it’s necessary to assess whether the air quality has improved and gauge whether further measures are needed. This approach based on local facts also helps create public support among residents and industry.


The Eindhoven case study

The municipality of Eindhoven is collaborating with various stakeholders to combat air pollution. The fact that air pollution doesn’t care about national or municipal boundaries doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it. Air pollution is composed of several levels. In addition to the higher national and regional levels, there are local peaks, along busy roads and near industries or airports. We can influence these peaks, taking measures to flatten them, but where do we start? It’s crucial to trace the different sources and combine this information with the locations of residents during the day.

Working together on healthy air

Eindhoven and the surrounding region face intricate air quality challenges due to rapid urban growth, industrial activities, livestock farming and a major airport. Together with various partners, including public authorities, health services, TNO and residents, the city began by gaining an understanding of local air quality and tracing the source. The partners also took residents’ movements into account, working with anonymous mobile data. This enabled them to determine the health impact more accurately. In addition to understanding local air quality, their objective was to foster collaboration and formulate widely supported measures.

Credible policy

An innovative air-monitoring network was put in place, operating at three levels. The first works with two national units. The second level contains 50 additional sensors from TNO. At the third level, data contributed by residents fosters transparency and engagement. The network has provided comprehensive air quality data for the whole of south-east Brabant. These detailed findings inform policy, aligning for example with the national Clean Air Agreement’s goal of achieving a 50% improvement in health by 2030.

From data to action

Tangible outcomes from the monitoring network include targeted traffic measures, redesigning central roads, and enhancing public transport connectivity around the airport. In addition, the municipality issues permits based on the best available techniques to curb industrial emissions, aligning with WHO air-quality guidelines.


What's the World Economic Forum doing to tackle air pollution?

Predicting air quality

Future plans involve expanding source-specific analysis, evaluating the impact of wood burning, and assessing air quality in vulnerable areas such as schools. Research is also being conducted to assess particulate matter exposure transparently, considering residents’ movements and urban congestion. Another idea is to develop a predictive air quality system akin to weather forecasts in support of the general public. Ultimately, the goal is to foster informed discussions and a shared responsibility for healthier air. The success in Eindhoven and the surrounding area stands as a model for regions seeking air quality improvements

Read more on the Eindhoven initiative here.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Air PollutionHealth and HealthcareClimate and NatureDavos Agenda
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