with the scientific contribution of
#BreathableCities World Campaign
Air Quality in Urban Transport and Impact on Human Health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, mobile source emissions are major contributors in human settlements and effects on people’s health are translated into high socio-economic costs.
Research on air quality in urban transport and impact on human health has been performed in the past in a limited number of countries but results have not vastly raised public awareness worldwide in an effective way.
As a response to it, in 2015, Youth For Public Transport (Y4PT), a foundation CREATED by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), launched a multi-stakeholder initiative called #BreathableCities World Campaign, aimed primarily at measuring people’s exposure to and inhalation of air pollutants through different modes of transport in order to estimate impact on human health.
The #BreathableCities World Campaign is a sub-product of other wider initiative called #HealthyMobility World Campaign, devised also by the Y4PT Foundation in 2013, that focuses on sensitizing all transport-related mobility stakeholders around the world about the importance of giving priority to modes and means of sustainable transport, especially those environmentally and human health-friendly, such as those offered by public transport in combination with the so-called active transport (e.g. walking, cycling).
With the U.N. Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the horizon, Y4PT is doing its best to contribute to achieve universal sustainable transport coverage with public transport as cornerstone of multimodal mobility solutions.
The key premise of the #BreathableCities World Campaign is that on a same route, an individual’s exposure to, dose of and response to an agent of air pollution might significantly vary depending on what mode of transport is chosen for being conveyed.
In order to prove it, a field-based experiment is performed in different cities by involving a wide range of urban transport actors such as passengers (e.g. bus, taxi cap, metro, tram, BRT, water taxi, cable car, public escalators, urban service helicopters), drivers (e.g. private cars, motorcycles, bicycles, animal-drawn vehicles), pedestrians, authorities (e.g. traffic agents), among others.
By employing specialized portable monitoring equipment (e.g. micro-aethalometers, PM monitors and filters, accelerometers, GPS trackers, heart rate monitors) docked onto each individual’s body, concentrations of air pollutants (e.g. CO2, CO, BC, PM2.5, PM10), physiologic variables (e.g. heart rate) and meteorological parameters (e.g. temperature, relative humidity) are simultaneously logged during a preset time period and considering different scenarios (such as peak/off-peak hours, weather, high/low traffic roads, weekends vs. weekdays, pedestrian only areas vs. highways, land adjacent to transport infrastructure, “car-free days”, etc.).
For comparison purposes, all participating urban transport actors follow the same route as they usually would do, based on the availability of infrastructure for each mode of transport under study.
For the time being the #BreathableCities World Campaign copes only with urban air pollution coming from different sources, making no distinction between transport-caused and non-transport-caused pollutants, and it is assumed that all participating urban transport actors have the same physical conditions and health preexistences.
The advantage of this kind of experiment is that data are obtained in motion (not at a fixed point in urban space), so that concentration variation of air pollutants is better observed, which people are exposed to and they inhale, along a specific route.
Analyzed data should reveal who of the urban transport users is more exposed to air pollutants, who inhales more, and thus, who faces more health risks.
THE CAMPAIGN AROUND THE WORLD
Bogotá, D.C. (Colombia, South America) was the first city hosting the #BreathableCities World Campaign, by organizing two editions up to today:
- #BreathableCities World Campaign – Bogotá 2015 – 1st Edition (http://www.y4pt.org/projects/campaigns/healthy-mobility/breathable-cities/2015-y/bogota/1-edition/): the first one (2015-I) took only into account one (1) air pollutant (black carbon, PM≤ 2.5) in an 1-day period, while
- #BreathableCities World Campaign – Bogotá 2015 – 2nd Edition (http://www.y4pt.org/projects/campaigns/healthy-mobility/breathable-cities/2015-y/bogota/2-edition/): the second edition (2015-II) included exposure and integrated the inhalation aspect, by monitoring a wider range of air pollutants in a continuous 12-day period.
This was the first time that such experiments were performed ever in this country.
By involving more cities over time, the #BreathableCities World Campaign will stand up as a better tool to benchmark urban transport systems around the world in terms of air quality and human health. Results should provide scientific evidence in order to take actions that lead to the implementation of zero-emissions mobility solutions in our cities.
FINDINGS SO FAR
The #BreathableCities World Campaign is still in progress but some evidences have come to light after the first edition in Bogotá, D.C. (See slideshow presentation for the 4th WBF Medellín 2015). On a same route, car drivers and bus passengers tend to be more exposed to urban air pollution (in part on account of polluted air masses funneled all along roadways, and deficient ventilation systems inside vehicles) but they tend to record lower inhalation rates, compared to cyclists and pedestrians who tend to be less exposed (to a certain extent, because they circulate outside roadways, on sidewalks and bikeways, respectively) but they tend to inhale more air pollutants (due partly to they move around through their own physical effort; they experience higher physical activity, higher minute ventilation, higher inhalation rate of air pollutants, and thus, higher health risk). Therefore making distinction between exposure and inhalation is important to determine impact on health.
The #BreathableCities World Campaign has been showcased in different scenarios around the world (as of 01 October 2015):
- Past events:
- “Health and Transport” Session at the 4th World Bicycle Forum 2015 (Medellín, Colombia, South America): http://www.fmb4.org/
- “Health and Transport” Session at the 61th UITP World Congress and Exhibition 2015 (Milan, Italy, Europe): http://www.uitpmilan2015.org/content/parallel-session-19-%E2%80%93-unlocking-benefits-mobility-health-objectives
- Upcoming events:
- “Bicycle and Public Transport” Session at the 1st Colombian National Bicycle Forum 2015 (Manizales, Colombia, South America): http://www.facebook.com/2058272610980131/
- 7th International Passenger Transportation Congress – Bogotá 2015 (Bogotá, Colombia, South America): http://www.y4pt.org/projects/youth-meeting/bogota-2015/
- 5th World Bicycle Forum 2015 (Santiago de Chile, Chile, South America): http://www.fmb5.org/
Futher information on events, dates and venues at http://www.y4pt.org/events/ .
GETTING THE WORD OUT
If you want to contribute by giving a brief presentation on #BreathableCities World Campaign at your university, office, home or any other place/moment, please check out the resources available online at http://www.y4pt.org/projects/campaigns/healthy-mobility/breathable-cities/at-a-glance/ .
Follow up the #BreathableCities World Campaign on social networking/media websites ( http://www.y4pt.org/social-networks/ ) such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram by using the hashtag #BreathableCities .