Air Quality Sensor Networks for Evidence-Based Policy Making: Best Practices for Actionable Insights


(1) Background: This work evaluated the usability of commercial “low-cost” air quality sensor systems to substantiate evidence-based policy making. (2) Methods: Two commercially available sensor systems (Airly, Kunak) were benchmarked at a regulatory air quality monitoring station (AQMS) and subsequently deployed in Kampenhout and Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) to address real-world policy concerns: (a) what is the pollution contribution from road traffic near a school and at a central city square and (b) do local traffic interventions result in quantifiable air quality impacts? (3) Results: The considered sensor systems performed well in terms of data capture, correlation and intra-sensor uncertainty. Their accuracy was improved via local re-calibration, up to data quality levels for indicative measurements as set in the Air Quality Directive (Uexp < 50% for PM and <25% for NO2). A methodological setup was proposed using local background and source locations, allowing for quantification of the (3.1) maximum potential impact of local policy interventions and (3.2) air quality impacts from different traffic interventions with local contribution reductions of up to 89% for NO2 and 60% for NO throughout the considered 3 month monitoring period; (4) Conclusions: Our results indicate that commercial air quality sensor systems are able to accurately quantify air quality impacts from (even short-lived) local traffic measures and contribute to evidence-based policy making under the condition of a proper methodological setup (background normalization) and data quality (recurrent calibration) procedure. The applied methodology and learnings were distilled in a blueprint for air quality sensor networks for replication actions in other cities. View Full-Text

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