Road Trip 3799 km – Where will I find the cleanest air?

On 1st August 2021, I will attempt to travel from Spain to Greece in a hybrid car. I aim to reach my parent’s home (yes, I miss them a lot, damn you covid19) and then return to Spain by sea on a ferry.

It is a month-long road trip of about 3799 km (2360 miles) and I hope I will have the chance to meet new places and during this process, I will document the air quality/pollution in different countries/cities in my effort to raise awareness. I will carry with me a portable air quality monitor that measures, particulate matter (PM1.0/PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOC), temperature, and humidity. The monitor is the Atmotube Pro which I have already reviewed here and it correlates very well against reference monitors. Personal and 3rd party field evaluations reveal that the monitor correlates very strongly against GRIMM data PM1.0 r2 ~ 0.93, and PM2.5 r2 ~ 0.89 (1-hr mean). PM2.5 data against a FEM BAM correlate strongly as well r2 ~ 0.78.

I feel confident about the data that I will obtain and as the device saves everything on internal storage and in the phone with GPS coordinates, I won’t lose anything and I will be able to answer some questions, like which counties are more Air Quality friendly based on my data, what was my average exposure to PM during the trip in total and in different countries, or if I had stayed at home, would I have been exposed to less PM, etc. Let’s find the Mediterranean country/city with the cleanest air.

I will visit some cities in Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece.

Stay tuned on social media like Twitter and Instagram, as I will post very frequently photos of the trip with AQ data and comments!

Wish me good luck and if you are interested in learning about the air quality in one of the places I will visit or you have any questions please write below.


Air Quality Monitors in transports – Why do we need at least CO2 monitoring?

After the fiasco with the exposure notifications on smartphones which was designed by Apple and Google to facilitate digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that governments weren’t ready to accept the terms of the service for privacy reasons probably and also users weren’t keen on enabling such feature probably for the same reasons.

We have to be able to monitor the situation in indoor environments beyond the location of an individual and we already do that with air quality monitors. Indoor air quality monitors help us see the air we are exposed to and when something isn’t right like high CO2 concentrations, we get notified to act by opening the windows or turning on the ventilation system, or eventually leaving the room if none of the latter are an option.

I propose to bring that kind of awareness to the indoor environments of transports, especially, in long-distance buses, airplanes, and trains as we spend substation time inside these transports and we all share the same air.

Most vehicles allow drivers to choose between outdoor air or recycled air. They never ever mention the benefits of fresh air (but not clean) to the drivers, so in most cases, drivers never change the settings. Have you ever been in a car for a long time, having the recycled air turned on? The drivers always complain about the lack of focus or energy and many passengers fall asleep. In most cases, this is due to the lack of oxygen and the high CO2 concentration which is scientifically proved to affect and decrease cognitive function.

The same thing applies inside an airplane. However, the pilots get the most oxygen from the rest of the occupants in the plane, but still, I am not sure if the bus drivers know about the indoor air quality (IAQ) of their buses and the outdoor air or where is the recycled air switch.

Not only that, we know that CO2 is a great indicator of ventilation rates and consequently indicates the viral load inside a transport. A viral load is a numerical expression of the quantity of virus in a given volume of air. The higher the viral load the most likely is to catch the virus, any virus, or pathogen.

Air quality data like CO2/PM2.5 are not as privacy-sensitive as location information and they can help us in mitigating the spread of diseases and improving our cognitive abilities and health. Clean air means healthy lungs, heart, and brain.

Indoor air quality monitors are relatively inexpensive and CO2 sensors can operate for up to 15 years. They will also reveal the truth about the air we breathe in cities. I know that not many council members want people to know that the air they are exposed to daily is poor and unhealthy but if you are a good politician with real morals and compassion for your fellow dwellers then you want the best for them.

So maybe it is time to start designing indoor air quality monitors for transports. They can work offline or online depending on the transport. Passengers can access the information as their ticket can host a QR code with the link of the specific monitor/transport/route. In the case of an off-line monitor then a display with clear readings will allow passengers and the staff/cabin crew of the transport to adjust the indoor conditions.