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Spending time outdoors offers numerous benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential risks associated with breathing polluted air. The atmosphere contains various pollutants, including dust, smoke, fumes, and others, which can have detrimental effects on your health if you are regularly exposed to them.
To ensure a healthier living environment with clean air, it becomes essential to implement community air quality monitoring solutions. These solutions enable you to accurately assess the current air quality, identify specific pollutants, and gain valuable insights to take proactive measures in addressing poor air quality. By doing so, you not only safeguard your health but also contribute to the preservation of a cleaner and healthier environment.
Table of Contents
Why it is more important to implement Community Air Quality Monitoring
We are producing more and more pollutants in the air
The production of pollutants in the air is increasing at an alarming rate. Human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels in transportation, industry, and electricity generation, are the primary sources of pollution. In addition, natural phenomena such as volcanic emissions, dust storms, and wildfires contribute to ambient air pollution by releasing sulfur and chlorine gases.
Some common pollutants present in the air like dust, smoke, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulates. We are often exposed to these certain types of pollutants. According to the World Bank, PM 2.5 pollutants or fine particulate matter take responsibility for 6.4 million deaths every year. About 95% of these deaths are from developing nations, where billions of people are exposed to PM2.5 concentrations inside and outdoors that are several times greater than the WHO‘s recommended levels.
Climate change is getting worse
Climate change leads to a rise in global temperatures, resulting in various consequences such as extreme heat impacting numerous areas. Additionally, other effects include an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, changes in precipitation patterns, and heightened risks of flooding due to rising sea levels. Data presented to COP 27 shows that climate change will cause 3.4 million deaths per year by the end of the century.
And what causes global warming? The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is due to human activities. These greenhouse gas emissions include Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), etc. To effectively mitigate these emissions, it is crucial to understand these pollutants and develop strategies to minimise their release. This knowledge is of utmost importance in improving your community’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The emergence of new particulates
Many harmful particulates existing outdoors can affect your health. Besides PM2.5 and PM10, pollen, and other particulates are varying due to climate change. For example, airborne allergens like pollen and certain pollutants can cause allergies and asthma. And if you prolongedly expose to these pollutants outdoors, you may get respiratory problems.
The impact of air quality monitoring in your community
To help control the dangers of air pollution, you should implement air quality monitoring in your community. Your community can benefit from accurate and real-time air quality data. Here are the benefits:
Air quality monitoring plays a very important role in protecting public health in your community. By measuring the levels of air quality, you can identify the sources of pollutants. They can be industrial emissions, engine emissions, and local sources like waste management facilities or construction sites. Moreover, communities can identify areas with poor air quality and get early warning alerts of locations with high pollution levels.
Therefore, the decision-makers can take immediate action to reduce exposure to polluted air.
Support policy development and regulation
By monitoring air quality regularly in your community, you can get data collected from the measurement process. The data provides valuable information on pollutant levels, helping regulatory agencies establish air quality standards and guidelines. Besides that, community air quality monitoring data which is reliable and real-time helps provide policymakers with information about the state of the air. Therefore, they can use this data to make informed decisions and adopt measures and other initiatives for improving air quality in the community.
Urban planning and infrastructure development
By identifying areas with poor air quality, communities can act promptly with mitigation strategies such as land-use planning, urban design, and transportation planning. For example, some infrastructures like residential areas, schools, and healthcare facilities can be away from major pollution sources, which can be busy highways and industrial zones. This helps residents, children, and patients minimise pollution exposure.
Community empowerment and engagement
With data obtained from continuous air monitoring, people in communities can access real-time and historical air quality data. They can understand the air they breathe and the potential health risks caused by pollution. This helps them take necessary steps to protect their health. For instance, individuals can adjust outdoor activities or choose alternative routes with better air quality.
Education and awareness
The data is analysed and visualised in dashboards, websites, or mobile apps. By accessing this, residents can understand the current state of air quality and the areas with high or low pollution levels.
Why some air quality monitoring solutions fail?
While we acknowledge the importance of implementing air quality monitoring solutions in our community, it is crucial to explore the reasons behind the failure of previous initiatives. Despite our understanding of the need for such solutions, it is necessary to investigate the factors that led to their ineffectiveness in addressing the air quality challenges faced by our community.
Do we understand enough about such levels of local air pollution?
Though we have made many efforts to understand air pollution, there is still limited knowledge in some areas at the local level.
Firstly, the availability and density of air quality monitoring can vary in many locations. Some regions have rich monitoring networks, providing detailed information on air quality levels. Meanwhile, in other areas, outdoor air quality monitoring stations may be sparse, leading to the limitation of data. Therefore, it leads to obstacles that you need to be concerned about.
Secondly, the particular range of pollutants may vary. Outdoor air quality monitoring devices can measure various pollutants like particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), etc. However, other pollutants receive less attention and resources for monitoring. As a result, this variation can impact the understanding of the complete picture of local air pollution. Besides, due to the effect of climate change and global warming, not only pollutants are measured, other weather parameters should be focused on. For instance, data from the weather parameters measurement can tell you the historical data and forecast what happens next in the weather.
Thirdly, there are emerging pollutants, leading to discoveries for potential health issues. Therefore, our understanding of these new pollutants is evolving. Some of them are microplastics, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nanoparticle pollution, etc. More research is needed to deeply understand their sources and their impact on human health.
Insufficient networks dissemination
Because of the limited number of monitoring stations across areas, there will be gaps in coverage if the network is not evenly distributed. These gaps may lead to inaccurate or incomplete assessments of air quality in certain locations.
One reason is the budgetary constraints. Implementing and maintaining an extensive community air quality monitoring network requires financial resources, leading to the restriction of monitoring stations. As a result, it fails to adequately cover the entire area of interest.
Another factor to consider is technological limitations. As air quality monitoring technology continues to advance, deploying outdated or less advanced monitoring equipment can compromise the reliability and accuracy of data measurements. This can contribute to potential failures or inaccuracies in monitoring data. Furthermore, challenges may arise when integrating data from multiple stations, ensuring data quality, and providing accurate insights.
Doubts or concerns regarding the effectiveness of previous mitigation strategies
Let’s ask a question first. To what extent are the mitigation strategies you have implemented been quantitatively effective?
To assess the qualitative effectiveness of mitigation strategies, detailed air quality monitoring data before and after the adoption of mitigation measures in your community are important for evaluating the impact. For example, evaluate the changes in pollutant concentrations, the enhancements in air quality index values, the reduction in emissions and associated health benefits, etc.
Moreover, the mitigation plans and initiatives may also have indirect effects on nearby areas or boroughs. For instance, lower pollutant levels may result from the reduction or elimination of a significant source of emissions in one area, as well as in surrounding areas that are also affected by those emissions. On the other hand, a contaminant that is transported from a nearby area may affect the air quality in other places.
Limited communication in community air quality monitoring system
To enhance the capabilities of air quality monitoring, integrating monitoring systems with IoT devices such as stations, sensors, and databases should be prioritised. However, some challenges we may face include sensor calibration and maintenance, data quality assurance, and limitations in interconnected and interoperable systems. This may lead to the inaccuracy in collected data and harm resource allocation optimisation, transport management, and urban spaces design.
5 things to consider when choosing community air quality monitoring solutions
The Number of Pollutants the sensors can measure
The capability to measure a broad range of pollutants allows for a more comprehensive assessment of air quality and an understanding of different pollution sources. Besides monitoring some major pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a comprehensive monitoring system should have sensors that can monitor particulate matter like PM2.5 and PM10.
Moreover, measuring other weather parameters like wind speed alongside pollutants is essential because weather conditions significantly influence air quality and the dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere. Weather parameters such as wind speed help determine how pollutants disperse in the atmosphere. Strong winds can quickly spread pollutants, leading to lower local concentrations. By monitoring weather parameters, we can anticipate the impact of such events on air quality.
Hyper-local of IoT (Internet of Things)
Hyer-local implementations of IoT (Internet of Things) are a highly effective approach to understanding air pollution at a fine-grained level. Therefore, you should choose monitoring stations integrated with algorithmic levers and machine learning. Sensors provide real-time data, allowing immediate awareness of air quality conditions in your community. For example, a residential neighborhood located near a busy highway experiences poor air quality because of traffic pollution, with hyper-local monitoring deployments:
- Installing IoT sensors at various points within the neighborhood like near roadways, parks, and schools to capture hyper-local pollution data.
- The IoT sensors continuously collect real-time data on key sources of pollutants and transmit wirelessly to a centralised platform like a cloud-based database.
- The collected air quality data is processed using machine learning algorithms. These algorithms analyse data and identify patterns, trends related to pollution in the community.
- The community can access user-friendly interfaces through a website or mobile app to see real-time air quality information. They can easily discover local air pollution concentrations, identify their sources and recognise events that contribute to spikes at certain hours of the day. The residents can also get automatic alerts when pollution levels exceed safe thresholds.
Comprehensive and next-generation air quality monitoring solutions
Traditional community air quality monitoring solutions are expensive and inefficient, that’s why many solution adoptions failed. Therefore, it’s time you need innovative, comprehensive, and next-generation solutions. You need hardware and software systems like Persium including IoT-based sensor networks, various sensor types like fixed stations or portable ones, applying machine learning and algorithms, real-time data integration and visualization, and mobile apps, etc. The innovative solutions bring your community huge benefits, yet, with cost-efficiency. By doing so, policymakers can empower the community to take proactive measures to address air pollution and enable evidence-based decision-making.
Proper calibration helps each air quality sensor be calibrated based on its unique characteristics and operating conditions. Moreover, it depends on the environmental conditions of your monitoring sites such as temperature, humidity, and pollutant levels. Therefore, this customization allows the sensors to accurately calibrate for the pollutants and conditions in your community. Other aspects to consider is the regulatory compliance, credibility, and specific needs to ensure that the monitoring is optimised for specific objectives and challenges.
Here’s an example of Persium’s Dashboard Mapview, where you can compare various pods and access real-time information on different pollutants.
Quality and accessibility of data
When choosing air quality monitoring solutions for your community, you should place a strong emphasis on the quality and accessibility of data. By doing so, you can deliver effective environment management and public health protection in your community. High-quality data ensures reliability and accuracy, enabling informed decision-making so that your community can thoroughly understand the pollution levels and environmental factors
Furthermore, the accessibility of data is essential because of the huge data collected from sensors, without proper analysis and visualisation demonstration, you will be confused. Therefore, you need a comprehensive web application to view air quality data visualisation and analysis so that you can actively engage in air quality awareness and take immediate responses to change air quality conditions. Persium Dashboard is your one-stop-shop solution and should be your choice because of the reasons below:
- Web application for visualising, analysing, and managing air quality data in one place.
- Comprehensive graphing tools and comparison features.
- Extended predictions powered by AI.
- Heatmaps, isobars, and wind data to compare the motions of pollution plumes.
- The Persium cloud is used to authenticate, store, and back up all data.
Want to know more?
Talk to our expert team about your needs in your community and we’ll suggest the perfect air quality solutions for you. Let’s get in touch.