Air Lab

The problem of air quality exists throughout the Po basin and therefore also involves the city of Bologna. Concentration levels of some pollutants revealed by the monitoring network exceed regulatory limits in different ways and according to the chemical characteristics and territorial circumstances. This is a very complex problem of the utmost importance, not only due to the effects that air pollution can have on the health of exposed populations.

Air Lab started in 2018 from a collaboration between the City of Bologna and the University of Bologna, ARPAE Emilia-Romagna, Bologna Health Authority, and the Metropolitan City of Bologna in coordination with the Fondazione per l’Innovazione Urbana. It is an experimental process of interaction and collaboration between different subjects to raise awareness and encourage action regarding the issue of air quality. The objects of Air Lab are to:

  • build a network of subjects active on various levels regarding air quality (institutions, associations, committees, formal and informal communities) who are ready to collaborate to increase citizen awareness and engagement regarding this problem
  • define strategies and shared tools to network, spread, and expand air-quality monitoring databases, both institutional and bottom-up
  • define strategies, content, and shared tools to inform and continuously and effectively communicate the problem of air quality and individual behaviour that may help to contain it.

The first phase of the lab (May–June 2018) entailed:

  • four meetings open to representatives from institutions, associations, committees, and citizens to create a network of subjects interested in spreading awareness and developing a communication campaign
  • publishing a questionnaire to reveal citizens’ perceptions about air quality in Bologna, information they might have, and the behaviours they would be willing to modify to reduce pollution

The second phase of the Lab (September–November 2018) entailed:

  • another four lab encounters dedicated to developing a tool for communication and awareness about air quality and individual and collective behaviours (the app ‘Che Aria è’) and the direct involvement of interest holders on the issue of air quality.

The third phase of the Lab (starting in December 2018) entailed a set of experimental activities that concentrated on some issues that emerged as central in the preceding phases, such as health, data, and sports.

  • Interviews
    From December 2018 to February 2019, 8 interviews were conducted with researchers and experts on the issue of communication, health, and sports in relation to air quality.

  • Focus group
    From February to March 2019, 3 focus groups met on health, data, and sports. Participating in the focus groups were representatives from area institutions, associations, and communities, who, for their competencies and experience, could make valuable contributions to the discussion.
  • App Che Aria è
    This phase entailed a set of activities to improve, develop, and spread the app. These were defined based on the indications and suggestions collected in the previous phase.

  • Air pollution and health. Ten questions for experts
    An informative guide was drafted and published to provide knowledge about pollution and useful behavioural suggestions to reduce risks for health, particularly for the most exposed subjects such as children, elderly people, and people with respiratory and/or heart problems. The ten questions were selected from among the most frequent and the answers were developed in collaboration with Air Lab’s scientific partners: Bologna Health Agency, ARPAE, and Istituto Ramazzini.

Under Air Lab, other pollution research and monitoring was carried out, with particular attention for indoor and outdoor areas at some schools (RIO project).

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