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AirGeo: citizens' empowerment through biomonitoring of air quality in response to mining, recycling and using georesources

Abstract

Air pollution has become the major problem of many cities, and it is affecting billions of persons around the globe. Airborne particles are known both to induce health problems and to have a role in climate change. Georesource-related particles account for a significant portion of the total load. Their emission occurs during the mining, recycling, or use of georesources. We want to bring together communities working around georesources to propose a new methodology for assessing air quality through a participatory process. The project aims to find a continuum from citizen involvement to the management of emissions and local policies. Our goal is to develop a passive sensor containing biological elements such as bark, with a low environmental impact. This type of sensor offers the possibility for a large number of inhabitants to be active and play an empowering role in monitoring and assessing pollution, as well as being a means of raising awareness of environmental conditions. This could enable organized civil society to be active in georesources policies. How citizens can become actors in the evaluation of their environment, and in particular of the air they breathe in connection with activities around georesources, is one of the reflection axes of the project. We will set up a methodology to propose this develop a sensor or a declination of sensors combining the technical performance and the human aspect. The technical side must include the efficiency of particle capture and the validity of the measurement performed. At the same time, the design must allow its appropriation by the inhabitants by taking into account cultural diversity and representations of the measurement. Finally, a low environmental impact both in the manufacturing of the sensor and in its recycling is essential to disseminate this type of measure without causing additional pollution. To ensure the diversity of points of view and the consideration of the subject in its globality, our think tank is based on the synergy of partners involving organized civil societies, designers, and researchers in anthropology, atmospheric sciences, geology, health, and geophysics. This network will be built with concrete anchors on international case studies (Brazil, France, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, and Ghana). The treatment of the sensors is made in the laboratory. In this project, we focus on heavy metals released into the air. Our current results show that the measurement of magnetic properties on such a sensor allows obtaining high-resolution maps of airborne particle concentration. Moreover, these techniques allow both a rapid evaluation of the total particle concentration as well as metrological development towards the detection of ultrafine particles, which are known to be the most harmful for human health. We will test the sensor and the participatory process by implementing it in different urban areas impacted by traffic, mining, and recycling plants. The valorization and dissemination of protocols and results is an important part of AirGeo. It will be achieved through scientific publications, participation in exhibitions, media production, and artistic events, always posted on the website. (AU)

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