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New year fireworks and air pollution

Fireworks exposes people to an invisible danger

Fireworks exposes people to an invisible danger

Eindhoven, new year’s midnight

AiREAS is a civilian initiative (sustainocratic) in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) to co-create a healthy city using air pollution measurement and health research as guiding principles. End 2013 a fine maze air pollution network was installed and calibrated. It measures small particles (PM) in the air all the way down to UFP (ultra fine particles), which are smaller than a virus and dangerous for human health. This network (called ILM) measures and communicates results every 10 minutes. This virtual real time measurement is unique in the world in combination with the enormous amount of data that is gathered. It’s design and installation was done at a much lower cost than usual and is still being optimized for usages around the world.

The technological partners are ECN, Philips and Imtech. Scientific partners for the ILM network design are: IRAS and ITC. Government partners are: the city of Eindhoven and Province of North Brabant. The social partners are the citizen’s of Eindhoven.

A team of technological, social and scientific specialists works with the data stimulating and measuring for feedback all kinds of innovative activities in the city that produce a healthier living mentality, organisation and environment.

New year’s fireworks

During new year celebration the Dutch population fires off a small fortune of fireworks in the streets of the country. Curiosity arose to the effects of this peak of explosive fun to the environment? For the first time a view could be obtained through the ILM.

Sharp peaks of fine particles

Sharp peaks of fine particles

This graph shows the average pollution level of the day of PM10 (the biggest particles measured). During the day people went out to have fun with their explosives, showing tremendous local peaks, especially at the height of the celebration around 00:30 at new year’s eve. These peaks surpass all year, day and week averages.

The PM 10 average from midnight till 1:00 am was mapped over the city, showing areas of extreme pollution (the lightest areas on the map with the purple area of pollution).

The average during the peak of the celebration

The average during the peak of the celebration

This map is difficult to “read”. You have to imagine the city map underneath it, as show here (with the main road infrastructure on the left as your guiding marker of the city boundary):

Map of Eindhoven with ILM measurement locations

Map of Eindhoven with ILM measurement locations

The fireworks activity was concentrated in the residence areas of the city. The city center hardly showed any significant pollution peaks.

Ultrafine Particles (UFP):

The most dangerous pollution are the UFPs. These are so small (smaller than a virus) that they pass through our cellular system with ease, producing small infections that lead to cardiac, lung, blood vessel, bladder and even brain problems, including cancer. The effects do not just produce physical problems but also productivity and behavioral disorder. For a long time it was thought that only long term exposure was affecting people. Now we know that any exposure produces the potential health issues. The more one is exposed the higher the probability.

During this particular new years night AiREAS measured UFP at 4 locations. The highly specialized UFP equipment (Philips) is much more expensive and hence designed as an add on module. This equipment is still very much hand made. When the world reacts and decides to increase the demand by establishing Local AiREAS initiatives or ILM infrastructures we will be able to reduce these particular equipment cost with a factor 20, making it affordable for just about any region.

UFP measured at 4 sites

UFP measured at 4 sites

The measurement of UFP at the 4 sites in Eindhoven shows that the peaks expand to over 600.000 UFP per cm3! This is 20 to 30 times more than our normal exposure. For over 1 hour the people (mostly youngsters) dealing with the fireworks were exposed to this invisible threat.


The weather that night was favorable to reduce the effects of pollution with certain speed. There was a light rain and a breeze of wind. We see that the peaks of larger particles seem to disappear quicker that the UFP. The behavior of the various particles is subject of scientific analysis still so little conclusions can yet be drawn.


Specialists are still going to analyse the data from air pollution and health points of view. Little we can conclude at this stage other than the civilian concern of such direct and indirect exposure to invisible threats, to us and our children that deal with it. The joy of the beauty or excitement of fireworks needs to be compensated with the growing awareness of its visible and invisible dangers. How we are going to deal with this new awareness will be a point of discussion added to the long list of steps that are already recognized to transform the city and its operations for health.


For more information about AiREAS you can contact me or any of the partners of the cooperative venture.

Air hazard at airports

Airports are concentration points of fuel combustion due to the high activity rate of mobility movements. Measurements have shown that air pollution reaches concentration peaks that are up to 6 times higher than along dense traffic arteries. People who are working on the airfields are exposed to hazards that produce cancer, heart, artery and lung problems. People who live and work nearby also take their share of the problem.

Here you find some reports of local and international action groups:

AiREAS is a citizen’s initiative that invites government, business, science, etc to take co-responsibility for creating healthy living and working environments using air quality and public health as measurement points. This is the infrastructure we laid out in the city of Eindhoven as a backbone for proactive health and air improvement initiatives.

AuREAS activity map Eindhoven

AiREAS activity map Eindhoven

Airport Eindhoven

Having a living lab to co-create a healthy city we also would like to include our local airport in the program. Various environmental groups and neighbors of nearby city quarters already address the issue of noise pollution, the flying zones and quit periods without flights at night. The management of the airport shows no sign of interest to address the issues. The main commercial concern seems to go to the growth of traffic and profitability of the airport area.

We all love to have an international airport nearby for our holiday and business flights throughout Europe. But we also share the thoughts of the airport director at Copenhagen who claims “that no one should get sick by coming to work”. We apply this also to the people who live nearby air traffic or travel regularly.

The challenge we all face is to live a life of wellness without damaging ourselves nor our environment beyond repair. This can only be done if we are all willing to address our wellness with care and responsibility developing applying knowledge and technology that diminish these hazards.

We will continue to build up the pressure locally as a high tech region with a high level of awareness and initiatives for sustainable human progress. We invite you all to do the same in your own home areas, considering even to establish a local AiREAS citizen’s initiative and create with me a worldwide network that address health and wellness beyond fragmented political and economical interests.

We state that self aware citizenship is the new entrepreneurship of the 21st century. We are a 7 billion people multinational that can make a difference: health, no debts, sustainable progress, safety, auto-determination and freely applied learning process (sustainocracy is a network of Sustainocrats).

Choices that affect the world

Life is full of choices. And choices have consequences. Take this chain of historic choices for instance in the Netherlands. The peaks in every picture are directly related. Now that our air is polluted, being number 1 cause of death in the public space, what should our next choices look like?

Goods distribution
The Netherlands choose to be the center of goods distribution for Europe ever since we discovered the waters for worldwide commerce. Our geographical positioning and trading history made the development of the large Rotterdam habor and infrastructures a logical choice.

Consumer economics
Since Europe decided to focus on consumption (leaving productivity to low wage countries) the combination of distribution,  infrastructure and city development became economic growth patterns. Cities are ideal, concentrated consumer platforms for economic efficiencies.

Population density, economic growth and health hazards are developing exponentially together

Population density, economic growth and health hazards are developing exponentially together

Air pollution
Choosing to use fuel combustion as mayor source of energy for mobility, heating and movement of goods shows consequences of premature death directly related to air pollution from burning fossil fuels. A large, services economy around the consequences develops.

Global warming, sea levels rising

The pollution contibutes to global warming with the consequence of sea levels rising. Large investments are needed to protect the Dutch mainland against the sea water. If this process continues large parts of the mainland will be flooded at places where the biggest city development has taken place. How do we protect millions or even billions of people?

Not much of Holland will be left

Not much of Holland will be left

 Global issues, local solutions, global application

When I choose to move from Spain back to Holland I noticed the equivalent reduction of quality of life due the combination of materialistic economic growth focus and growing consequences on health and environment. As a consequence my awareness developed around complex ethics and responsibilities. It became my choice to invite key local responsibilities (government, science, citizens and technology) to address People, Planet, Profit together rather than separately. Sustainocracy was born and AiREAS Eindhoven our first venture.

AiREAS is the first sustainocratic venture

AiREAS is the first sustainocratic venture for healthy environments from a air quality point of view.

Choices are based on circumstances, opportunity and awareness. What would happen if Europe would change focus from consumption to productivity? What would happen if economic value would be given to positive human interaction rather than materials and goods? What would have happened to my awareness if I had stayed in Spain instead of moving to Holland? How can Holland cope with health responsibility when its economic positioning depends on unhealthy practice? What choices can we expect? What would happen if we did nothing?

Analysis of choices, consequences and sustainable human progress is becoming a modern science of its own. But whatever the outcome, the transformative reality is clear. If we do not work on those global issues locally with solutions fast we will be surprised by chaos and disaster. We will pay the highest price ever. Death. Now we still have a choice.

Two realities with the same players: financial growth and cocreation of solutions

Two realities with the same players in the model (JP Close 2009) of  human complexities: immoral financial growth and cocreation of solutions

Jean-Paul Close