Leader – Dr Rob Ferguson will lead the research at the University of Essex (Image: University of Essex)
ESSEX schoolchildren have been invited to take part in a major multi-million pound study on air pollution involving researchers from the University of Essex.
The groundbreaking research will see scientists test the air quality to which pupils are exposed in several primary schools in Colchester.
Young people will have the chance to join hundreds of other children across Europe in taking part in an eight million euro project to assess the quality of the air children are exposed to in the classroom and on their way to and from school.
The InChildHealth study, an EU-funded project, will see the Essex team led by Dr Robert Ferguson, an expert on airborne microorganisms from the University of Essex’s School of Life Sciences.
Scientists will sample three primary schools in Colchester using a range of advanced scientific methods and sensors to measure indoor air quality in classrooms.
Children will be able to get involved in the process, designing and building their own citizen science experiments while learning about air pollution.
Microbial samples collected from Colchester schools, as well as samples from all European schools, will undergo DNA analysis by the Essex research team.
This will then allow the team to determine which microorganisms are present and how many are in the classroom air that children breathe on a daily basis.
The Gazette previously reported that Colchester city center was in the 71st national percentile for air quality, with the smaller percentiles representing the least polluted areas.
The city center was found to breach three World Health Organization limits on specific pollutants, including PM2.5, where Colchester had 11.36mcg/m3, when the WHO limit is 5mcg/m3.
Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can cause asthma, strain lung function and promote cancer.
Project findings will lead to the development of interventions to reduce children’s exposure to harmful air pollution.
Regarding the project, Dr. Ferguson said, “This ambitious, interdisciplinary project is hoped to pave the way for identifying links between exposure to indoor pollutants and children’s health.
‘Little is currently known about how our children’s health is affected by bioaerosols, which are airborne particles containing biological material, such as bacteria and fungi.’