These are the green grass pots that participants will receive, Source: Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián

Basque volunteers will get potted grass to measure air quality

Basque volunteers will get potted grass to measure air quality

The academic research project needs the help of wannabe urban gardeners in San Sebastian-Donostia

An initiative in the Basque city of San Sebastian-Donostia is currently recruiting volunteers to participate in an air quality study. For this purpose, all the participants need to do is accept a grass sample and take care of it for two months by placing it on their balconies and watering it.

The project is called Fitoarakatzen and has the larger aim of analyzing the air quality in the Basque Country of Spain by using special grass plants. These grass samples, placed in pots, will be distributed to the volunteers, who would like to take part in the scientific study by doing their citizen’s duty.

Marisol Garmendia, the representative councillor for Ecology of the San Sebastian-Donostia City Council, stated that "it is a citizen science project, which any Donostia resident can easily participate in, and which, in addition to the data that can be obtained, aims to be an element of awareness about the environment".

Environmental care through home plant care

Numerous studies carried out in recent decades have revealed that urban traffic has an effect on the quality of the air citizens breathe. Heavy metals, such as lead, zinc or arsenic in the air, increase in the streets with denser vehicle traffic, and it is confirmed that they are involved in the health of people with respiratory diseases, among other things.

In that respect, by analyzing the grass samples placed in private homes, the presence of certain polluting agents will be measured. Apparently, the type of grass given to the citizens is widely used in scientific research as it captures pollutants from the air.

A maximum of 45 plant samples will be distributed to volunteers whose work will be to take care of them for two months and place them on their balconies. After that, the plants will be sent to the lab to analyse the accumulation of heavy metals in their cell structures.

The project is coordinated by Dr. Iker Aranjuelo Mitxelena (IdAB-CSIC, researcher at the Agrobiotechnology Institute of Navarre) and promoted by the Cristina Enea Foundation. It is financed by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) of the Ministry of Science and Innovation. 



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