Curious noses measure air quality across Flanders


In the largest citizen science project of its kind, 20,000 homes and businesses are helping to measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air in their neighbourhood

For better public health

Thousands of homes and businesses across Flanders are taking part in a citizen science project to measure the quality of the air in their neighbourhood.

The CurieuzeNeuzen (Curious Noses) project is the largest citizens’ initiative of its kind. The 20,000 participants will measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide in their street; the higher the concentration, the worse the quality of the air. The project will last a month, at the end of which researchers will analyse the data and present an improved modelling map detailing air quality across the region.

This map will help researchers better estimate exposure to nitrogen dioxide and its effects on public health, allowing them to provide better information and recommendations to policymakers.

“Increasingly we are seeing a clear link between the air quality in residential areas and people’s health,” project leader Filip Meysman told VRT. “For example, we see that in the days after higher concentrations are recorded, more inhalers are bought at chemists.” 

From the 53,000 people and organisations who responded to the call for volunteers, the project leaders chose 20,000 to take part. Thousands of families and hundreds of schools, businesses, associations and town halls have installed the measuring apparatus, which consists of a folding board with two tubes, attached to a window on the first floor of their building.

There are data collection points in all Flemish municipalities, along large and small roads. They will be in place until 26 May, with the results of the study expected at the end of September. The CurieuzeNeuzen project is an initiative of the University of Antwerp, the Flemish Environment Society and De Standaard. A previous version of the test was carried out in Antwerp in 2016.

Photo: A measuring station in Dilbeek, Flemish Brabant
© Belga/Ilse Ketele