A boy and a dog fight for a better tomorrow

A Labrador has become the first dog in the UK, and potentially the world, to join the fight against air pollution, all by recording pollution levels at ground level. Baggy wears a pollution monitor on her collar so she can take data measurements closer to the ground. Given that her monitor has found that air pollution levels are much higher closer to ground level, this research has helped highlight concerns that babies and toddlers, as well as pets, may be at a higher risk of developing lung issues.

Conventional air pollution monitors are usually mounted on lampposts or pillars, at almost 3 meters in the air. However, since Baggy stands at roughly the same height as a child in a pushchair at a height of less than 1 meter, she frequently records pollution levels which far exceed the standard data measurements. The doggy data research was the idea of Baggy’s 13-year-old owner Tom Hunt and his father Matt.

The English youth from Chesham, Buckinghamshire realized that pollution levels are around two-thirds higher close to the ground than they are in the air at the height where they are normally recorded by the Environment Agency. Tom has since reported their shocking findings to the government and the Buckinghamshire County Council in an attempt to emphasize that infants are at higher risk of asthma, which is an issue that cannot be ignored by an measure.

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“I am really proud of Baggy, I think our research is really important,” said Tom, who has been firm friends with his beloved dog since the family got her at just five weeks old. “People need to recognize that it is us young people and kids who are suffering the most from air pollution, and something needs to be done about it urgently.”

Tom Hunt

Tom’s dad Matt stated that he was “very proud” of his son because “when he gets an idea, he keeps his head down and gets on with it.”

“The whole purpose of this is that Tom really does want to do some good and stop young kids from getting asthma. The national data is skewed. The pollution monitors are ordinarily hung upside down from lampposts, a lot higher up, to avoid vandalism. But this gives a completely different, flawed result. We have about 40 to 45 hours of data now, which has shown that pollution levels are about two-thirds higher closer to the ground.”

Matt Hunt

Matt, who himself own a company specializing in environmental engineering, said his son has had a passion for the environment since he was very young.

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“He became aware of environmental studies at a very early age, about 7 or 8 years old,” Matt said. “He built up a passion for it, and he became very interested in gadgets, so he started to do some research to see if he could monitor pollution levels for himself. About 14 months ago, he got this new piece of tech which is like a test tube. One Sunday afternoon, we went out to do some monitoring, and I said, why don’t we take Baggy with us? We put a pollution monitor around her collar, and let her monitor the pollution levels lower down,”

Matt Hunt

The family has now contacted government Department For Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs with their data—and they say it is up to them to act on it. In addition, Tom and Baggy’s research contributes to the Plume app, which lets people know how air pollution is affecting their area.

Matt said there are a few key things that can be done to help guard youngsters against suffering asthma attacks.

“The main thing is to keep them above exhaust level. Get them a higher pushchair , like the old-style ones, to keep them higher up from the ground.”

Matt Hunt
Image source: www.bucksherald.co.uk

As for one-year-old Baggy, she is apparently happy enough to enjoy her doggy life whenever she’s not helping the environment.

“Most of the time, Baggy is just like any other dog—she doesn’t like the Hoover and she loves to pull the stuffing out of her teddies. But for the rest of the time she is a super dog, and we are all really proud of her.”

Tom Hunt