Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
Where official monitoring of air quality is lacking, citizens can take the matter into their own hands to get informed about air pollution and to protect their health. HEAL has initiated a programme for community air quality monitoring in Serbia.
HEAL, with the help of the Serbian Ministry of Health and the Medical Faculty of the University of Novi Sad, started a programme to help communities in Serbia to monitor their own personal exposure to PM2.5 air pollution.
The problem is a familiar one: year after year, the air quality in Serbia continues to be over-polluted. The greatest threat to the health of the citizens in the country comes from high levels of small particles (PM2.5). The major source of PM2.5 comes from coal power plants. The two largest coal power plants in the country and in the whole region sit near Belgrade and figure amongst the top ten dirtiest plants in the European region.
In the whole country only a single monitoring station measures PM2.5, particulate matter small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and pose a significant threat to health. Serbian law on clean air allows for levels of PM2.5 to be 25 µgm-3, although the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there is no safe level of this pollutant for which health impacts do not occur.
Within this project, HEAL focuses on the development of methods for personal exposure monitoring and of a special “citizens for science” tool. This tool allows for better observation, understanding, protection and enhancement of our health and environment. For this purpose, experimental projects with a small, wearable personal monitoring device that monitors PM2.5 were developed in two cities in Serbia (Belgrade and Novi Sad).
How to take part in our community monitoring project?
If you want to take part and join us as citizen scientists, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.