Challengers assemble: €3m prize set for EU clean air solution

30 Jan 2017

Image: artjazz/Shutterstock

Air pollution is becoming a significant problem globally. The EU has announced a €3m prize for materials solutions to help clean it all up.

Within the first five days of 2017, London reached its annual air pollution limit. Throughout the month of January, areas in Ireland produced worrying signs, too.

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution remains the single largest environmental health hazard in Europe, resulting in a lower quality of life due to illnesses, and an estimated 467,000 premature deaths per year.

In that regard, the latest EU research and innovation prize is being provided for clean air materials.

Aimed at developing the most affordable “innovative and well-designed material solution that will reduce the concentration of particulate matter in the air”, entries are being accepted between now and 23 January 2018.

The contest is open to any person(s) or organisation established in the EU or countries associated with Horizon 2020.

Currently, around 90pc of people in European cities are exposed to levels exceeding WHO air quality guidelines levels.

Average EU life expectancy is estimated to be lowered by 8.6 months as a result of exposure to particulate matter resulting from human activities. According to the EEA, the inhalation of particulate matter can lead to asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, birth defects and premature death.

In addition to its impact on human health, particulate matter can also have adverse effects on climate change and ecosystems.

Among the other drives for cleaner air is the encouragement of electric vehicle adoption throughout EEA member states. However, widespread use of such vehicles would pose challenges for Europe’s power grid in meeting increased electricity demand.

Increasingly novel ways to monitor air pollution are being suggested and developed, such as strapping sensors to pigeons.

In the UK, it can’t happen fast enough. January’s worrying findings compiled by the London Air group – a part of King’s College London –  were described as “shameful” by campaigners fighting for greater environmental protection.

According to The Guardian, the highest amount of pollution was found on Brixton Road in the Lambeth area where, by law, levels of nitrogen dioxide must not exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times in a year.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic