Nakuru County installs sensors to measure air quality in Schools and Shopping Malls

The County Government of Nakuru has taken another big step in its air quality efforts, with the unveiling of new sensors in public places, learning institutions and shopping malls in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

As part of the City Health and Wellbeing (CHeW) programme to measure and analyze air quality at public places around the devolved unit, air quality monitors have been installed at the Nakuru Girls High school, Nakuru Level 5 Teaching and Referral Hospital, Nyayo Garden, Nakuru Athletics Club (NAC) and ten shopping malls.

According to Chief Officer Directorate of Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and Climate Change Mr Muriithi Kiogora the sensors will not only enable researchers to collect and analyze more data on the impact of air pollution on members of the public, but also inform mitigation actions.

‘The air quality sensor network captures and monitors particular matter of air including dust, smoke, soot as well as gases within the air and analyses them before providing online information on quality of air, main pollutant and weather condition of a particular place while giving advisory on what actions to be taken as well as places to avoid for persons with sensitive respiratory conditions,” Mr Kiogora indicated.

Installation of air quality monitoring devices, he noted, was a game changer because it is often difficult for authorities to pinpoint pollution sources and trends to develop effective solutions.

“Conventional air pollution management commonly relies on a few reference stations that are expensive and difficult to operate – and in mathematical modelling with high uncertainty,” the Chief Officer said.

While noting that air pollution is a silent killer affecting the health of communities, plants, animals and the environment, the Chief officer said cooperation between the County Government, UNEP and SEI purposes to formulate a long-term solution for accessing air quality data which helps to identify the various threats that cause air pollution within the city, raising awareness and helping to improve air quality.

Air quality sensors work on the principle of measuring the reduction of infrared radiation in the air. The signal from the infrared detector is further amplified and then the attenuation of the radiation caused by the collision with carbon dioxide is analyzed. The more the carbon dioxide, the more the infrared radiation is attenuated.

SEI representative Romanos Opiyo said its work on air pollution in Kenya also involves collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) that is currently revising Kenya’s Air Quality Regulations (2014), the Kenya Meteorology Department on air pollution data, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and the Ministry of Health on health impacts of pollution.

He stated that the collaboration will not only focus on the monitoring of air quality through the installation of sensors in selected public places and sporting facilities but also in the training on the collection of air data and analysis of air pollution to inform decisions.

“We will undertake joint public awareness campaigns on the environment, including on air quality and climate change. This new sensor technology is facilitating measuring and mapping pollution concentrations with more spatial resolution, targeting different concentrations inside and outside buildings, and temporal resolution every five minutes instead of an hourly average,” he added.

Athletics Kenya Communication and Sustainability Manager Maxwell Nyamu who witnessed installation of the sensors at NAC said the project is part of a broad campaign to raise awareness about air pollution around the world and the impact it has on elite athletes and recreational runners.

Combating air pollution and working to improve air quality is one of the six key pillars of the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, a 10-year road map unveiled in April 2020. [World Athletics.

“The data collected from these sensors will inform mitigation measures that will benefit all the users of this facility in all sporting events,” he said.

Athletics Kenya is one of the member federations that were involved in the World Athletics’ pilot programme to measure and analyze air quality at sporting venues around the world.

Nyamu said the collection of data will help in determining the amount of quality air needed per sporting event.

He added, “Athletes should be aware of the real time data on the air quality they are exposed to ahead of their training session. Research has shown that there is a clear correlation between the air quality an athlete inhales and actual performance in the field as it impacts the respiratory system of the athletes.”



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