Long-term exposure to polluted air can cause serious illnesses. Public-sector organisations, companies and citizens therefore wish to have more information on the pollution levels and sources of emissions. TNO has extensive expertise in measurement techniques and the use of models to assess the air quality. This makes it possible to take appropriate measures and make the Netherlands a healthier place.
Air quality in the Netherlands has improved considerably in recent years. Senior TNO researcher Menno Keuken: 'But we're not there yet. The effects of polluted air on health, such as premature death due to respiratory disorders or cardiovascular disease, remain a concern. People who live near motorways or in busy city centres still have greater health risks.' Particulate matter is of main concern. TNO already measures the mass concentration of particulate matter, but further research is required to fully explain the effects of particulate matter on health. Other aspects – such as the chemical composition and the size of the particles – are therefore being studied. The focus is not solely on traffic emissions but also on other sources of air pollution such as shipping, aviation and industry. These are studied both outdoors and in indoor environments (e.g. factories, schools and aircraft cabins).
TNO has knowledge of measurement techniques and models to calculate the dispersion of air pollution. Keuken: 'We can assess whether the air quality is in compliance with the standards. Businesses, individuals and public-sector organisations therefore call on our services on a regular basis. Sometimes we carry out the research ourselves, and in other cases we make our expertise available to specialist consultancy firms. And our work isn't restricted to the Netherlands. With our knowledge we are involved in international research programmes for example on the contribution of emissions from European and Chinese cities to climate change.
TNO is keen to help develop solutions: for example in the Koningstunnel in The Hague, through research on special coatings of titanium dioxide that can reduce the concentration of nitrogen oxides from road traffic. TNO is also working with a supplier of floor carpets on research into ways to reduce emissions of dust in classrooms. We are also working with DCMR (the Environmental Protection Agency of the Rijnmond region) on projects including reducing incidental emissions by industry and refineries. Keuken: 'In this way, we're all working to make the Netherlands a cleaner and healthier place.'