Actions for a healthy and playable city
We are a group of citizens concerned about the bad quality of the air in Torino considering especially the vulnerability of the youngest members of our community. Torino is ranking the highest national level of air pollution, the major part originated from street traffic with highest pollution values at ground level, causing serious health problems. Small children are therefore the main victims of the air pollution in our city.
a pilot project
Improving air quality in Torino: actions against air pollution for a healthy and playable city
We have been able to realize a pilot project in the city of Torino from June 2017 until March 2018 with the financial support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation. We have been chosen as one of the winning projects of their Urban95 Challenge competition.
“Urban95 asks a simple question: if you could see the city from an elevation of 95 centimetres – the average height of a healthy 3-year-old child – what would you do differently? ”
We ask: what kind of air does a child breathes at 95 cm in Turin?
We believe that our children have a right to breathe clean air!
Make a difference and join with us to help make the air in our community more breathable and to mitigate kids exposure to air pollution. Let’s perform citizens research, do experiments, create awareness, brainstorm solutions and implement an action-plan to be empowered for change.
Initiated by Elisabetta Forni and Mirjam Struppek, the team of cheARIArespiro95 has been enriched by the competences of Chiara Carlucci, Raffaella Dispenza, Angela Nasso and Emanuele Negro. They are professionals in various fields related to urban sciences, the environment and childhood and share a deep concern about pollution in their city, Turin. They believe that the ‘right to the city’ has to be ensured particularly for children.
- Chiara Carlucci, architect: urban planning for and with children
- Raffella Dispenza, architect: urban planning and participatory processes
- Elisabetta Forni, sociologist: the urban child and the right to the city
- Angela Nasso, architect: urban planning and participatory processes
- Emanuele Negro, physicist: environment and sustainability
- Mirjam Struppek, urbanist: sustainable public spaces transformation.
Giovanna Berti, Mauro Grosa, Nico De Leonardis, Beppe Piras, Gianluca Matteucci
ARPA Piemonte, Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente.
Bernard van Leer Foundation
Challenges and aims
Turin’s environmental conditions are challenging and severe: PM10 air pollution is ranking the highest at national and European level. The city has a quite high motorisation rate (650 cars/1000 inhabitants) and has a low rate of pedestrian/bike mobility and a poor public transportation system compared to other European big cities. Kids are the most exposed due to height of air intake.
Epidemiologic surveys undoubtedly showed morbidity and mortality impacts of air pollution on: respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive and central nervous system, liver, spleen, blood and DNA. PMx and NOx are proved to be carcinogenic.
Small children and even fetuses are quite vulnerable to air pollution. Their immune system is not yet able to defend their body against this intrusion and their respiratory system cannot properly develop in presence of air pollutants, provoking lifetime respiratory failure. Brain abnormalities have been observed with risk of cognitive impairment.
The aim of the project has been to mitigate the air pollution exposure especially for pregnant women and kids from 0 – 5 years old through structural urban transformations, awareness creation, car traffic reduction and green mobility increase.
Outputs and achievements
Main outputs of the project are the following:
- web blog and information booklet for adults’ awareness building
- temporary transformation of streets and squares into pedestrian areas, making them available for public use (exhibition of the workshop results, signposting, installations, social activities, play, cycling, …)
- neighbourhood air pollution maps
- maps of analysis and proposals of urban requalification for Vanchiglia
- toolbox (read the English version here) containing a set of 9 steps, addressed to City Council and other actors willing to participate into the air quality improvement challenge
These outputs proved to be useful in order to achieve the following goals:
- children’s consciousness building on air pollution sources, on adults’ responsibilities and on their right to wellbeing, play and safe living conditions
- children’s health hazard mitigation: taking into account that both urban transformations and habits are long term issues, effects will occur in the aftermath of the project and will be increasingly measurable as the project will be replicated at city and metropolitan level. Nonetheless the pollution maps that have been produced can be used immediately to choose the less polluted streets
- children’s wellbeing: their ideas and desires about public space transformation as “playable city” have been turned into possible reality, thus providing a lively experience as well as self-esteem and confidence in adults as actors of transformations in their favour
- children’s reliance upon their parents’ stronger willingness to change, following their involvement in “citizen science” monitoring activity and participation to the project
- children’s environmental education provided by their teachers now more aware of environmental and health challenges and hazards, thanks to their involvement in the project
We outline below some key points for the successful implementation of similar projects:
- the number of public spaces reclaimed in favour of children should be as high as possible
- it needs a lot more effort to involve the parents, while it is much easier to involve children and their teacher
- neighbourhood inhabitants should be widely involved in project’s activities
- the timing and sequence of actions involving schools should be tailored on the base of school calendar and local seasonal climate
- support from Public Administration and Environmental Regional Agencies has to be strongly claimed: information campaigns on health hazards, participatory processes on urban transformation and green mobility, creation of a dedicated office responsible for “children’ affairs” (ombudsman of children), …
Furthermore we remind that some obstacles always hinder the successful implementation of similar projects:
- bad habits (e.g. car use for mobility, …) are difficult to be replaced with new ones
- inertia and long time-scale of public administrations’ actions for urban changes, e.g. public transports enhancement, byke mobility support, street design, …
The project’s actions have been undertaken along 6 major themes:
awareness creation among adults on the air quality-child health link
- training with experts of Regional Environmental Agency (ARPA)
- public meeting with health and mobility experts
- information and training meetings with teachers and children’s parents of the selected pre-school
- fostering the participation of volunteers
knowledge building among children on main air features, on air pollution sources, mobility and the right to playable public spaces
- workshops, urban exploration and discovery
- setting-up and participation to outdoor activities (bike-pride, spring party)
involvement of neighbourhood’s inhabitants
monitoring indoor and outdoor air quality (PMx, NOx, O3, VOCs)
- citizen science monitoring campaign carried out by parents in the house-to- school journey by means of portable low-cost devices
- air quality monitoring in a selected school classroom
public administration involvement
- meetings and information exchange with: major deputies, neighbourhood administrators, city councelors, local police department
communication (press, TV, web and social media)
- sponsorship of events and activities
- design, networking and management of internet media
- journalists (TV and press) networking
Wide dissemination of project’s outputs. Urging the City Council to adopt the set of actions described in the following scaling up strategies.
Scaling up and implementing strategies
We suggest the pilot practices we developed during the project should be adopted by the City Council and Metropolitan Administration and scaled up by replication in all the preschools, therefore reaching about 2 millions inhabitants, of which 100,000 children under 5 years old. For this purpose we make available the tools we designed in the project under the creative comons lisence:
- toolbox (English version) containing the guidelines and the relevant steps to be performed
- e-booklet summarising the main cause/effect relationship of air pollution issues, the mitigation strategies, steps for consciousness building on personal responsibility towards children’s wellbeing (parents, public administration, general population), scientific and popular literature review.
We strongly request that the City should create a special office ruled by a children’s ombudsman whose task – among others – should be to implement the toolbox guidelines on the basis of: information, involvement, communication, participation, experimental actions on public spaces, permanent transformation of public spaces, replicability at small group scale.
A big thank you to everyone who helped and contributed to making this project successful!
P.S. Read also the blog post about our project on the website of the Bernard van Leer Foundation:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.