Kitchener-Waterloo

Air pollution at local schools focus of new WLU, City of Kitchener research

A researcher from Wilfrid Laurier University has been awarded $50,000 from the federal government to lead an innovative air pollution study in public schools in collaboration with the City of Kitchener and Hemmera Envirochem Inc.

Research team will install air-quality monitoring systems at Kitchener public schools

With schools closed due to COVID-19, Hind Al-Abadleh says researchers are able to get a baseline level of air pollution in Kitchener schools before kids come back in the fall. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

A researcher from Wilfrid Laurier University has been awarded $50,000 from the federal government to lead an innovative air pollution study in collaboration with the City of Kitchener and Hemmera Envirochem Inc. 

The research team will install air-quality monitoring systems at Kitchener public schools to collect real-time air pollution data that will be used to inform the city's climate action plan and protect vulnerable young people. 

"Air pollution is a major public health issue," said Hind Al-Abadleh, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Laurier and primary investigator for the study. 

"The World Health Organization calls it a 'silent killer' because approximately seven million people around the world die from air pollution exposure annually," she said in a news release.  

According to Al-Abadleh, while Kitchener is a rapidly growing city, it only has one air-monitoring station, less than most Ontario cities of a similar size. 

Children vulnerable to air pollution exposure

Al-Abadleh said the city is looking for science-based recommendations to improve air quality, but data must first be collected.

"We identified children as one of the most vulnerable populations to air pollution exposure, so schools seemed like a logical tracking location for maximum impact," Al-Abadleh said. 

"Now that schools are temporarily closed, we are collecting as much data as possible so that once students are hopefully back in September, we can see if the resumption of traffic and activity leads to a significant change in air quality." 

Claire Bennett, corporate sustainability officer at the City of Kitchener, said in the news release that the partnership brings together local government, academia and the private sector "to assist the city in achieving its community climate action planning goals by generating science-based, real-time climate data that community members can visualize and interact with as we work toward building a healthier community for all residents."

Based on the results, the City of Kitchener will consider revising vehicle idling bylaws and will be developing new practices and programming with regional partners. 
Hind Al-Abadleh, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Laurier and primary investigator for the study. (Wilfrid Laurier University)

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