'Measuring the quality of our living environment is key to understanding why we stay healthy or become sick'

Air pollution can make people sick. In order to find out how this works exactly, environmental epidemiologist Roel Vermeulen of Utrecht University and University Medical Center Utrecht measures air pollution with his research team.

George Downward, Roel Vermeulen, Edith Milanzi, Calvin Ge, Jie Chen, Kees Meliefste, Jules Kerckhoffs, Yongliang Zhang, Anke Juss, Lützen Portengen
George Downward, Roel Vermeulen, Edith Milanzi, Calvin Ge, Jie Chen, Kees Meliefste, Jules Kerckhoffs, Yongliang Zhang, Anke Juss and Lützen Portengen. Photo: Robin Alysha Clemens

One of the ways in which they do this is by placing measuring equipment in electric cars in Utrecht. However, more data is needed, which is why Roel looked for a way to gather global data and started a unique collaboration with Google. The ‘street view cars’ that Google uses are fitted with equipment to measure air quality, thus becoming ‘air view cars’.

The cars also detect substances that could not be measured until now. Using the gathered data,  the Utrecht-based researchers of the strategic theme Life Sciences make models and maps. Roel: ‘When you have a better insight into the data, you can intervene more directly to reduce the number of cases where people become sick from air pollution.’