I think we have come to a point in time where we are well aware of the dangers internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles hide as they emit a tremendous amount of toxic pollutants that have a direct health impact on dwellers, especially in cities.
Nowadays, going to the center of a city by car is unnecessary and very impractical. However, many still insist on taking their huge SUVs even for a trip within a walking distance. Walking distance means going from one point to another no farther than 1,5 km / 1 mile or 15 minutes in time. I don’t think you will go any faster if you take your car because of all the hassle that it involves (parking, getting on board, load stuff, etc).
Schools here in Europe are within walking distances. This is the reason your kid cannot go to a school in a different district. Even then though, parents form huge queue outside of the schools in order to drop off their kids every single morning. No! It’s time to walk!
I believe cars should come with a permanent sticker on the rear side similar to the tobacco packaging in order to make people think and react. The sticker cannot be removed or covered by law. Maybe you will turn off the engine while waiting or not forcing the car to start even when new cars hibernate the engine automatically in traffic lights.
More and more people choose to ride a bike for their daily commutes and although SODAQ AIR is not the first air quality monitor for a bike, it is the first to have collected over 20M data points. This is particularly import for the development of an IoT air quality monitor as the developers have enough information to debug and develop a super stable product that needs very little troubleshooting from its users.
SODAQ is not a new company as it was founded back in 2013, and they have been working on this particular project (SODAQ AIR) alone since 2015. It seems that consumer satisfaction is always their priority, which is very important nowadays as we need sustainable products that will last for a long time.
In the space of ambient air quality monitoring, there are two basic and distinctive categories of professional air quality monitors; the High-End Professional and Low-Cost Professional monitors. I have been asked multiple times to recommend monitors for scientific studies and the deployment of them in cities.
It is very important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both categories. It is also mandatory to recognize the fact that we will never get the exact same measurement from either category of sensors.
High-End Professional AQA
High-End Professional ambient air quality analyzers are used mostly by governments inside the air quality stations we have in most cities. Their strength is that they meet international standards for accuracy and they are certified by the EU (and similar bodies) to meet minimum performance requirements, in order to ensure that the measurement methods comply with the Data Quality Objectives set down in the Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) and in the amending Directive (EU) 2015/1480. Their weakness is that they require lots of energy to operate. In most cases, they are inside a fixed container with a refrigeration system to keep conditions stable. They are big and boxy in size and very expensive to purchase and operate. Additionally, they need constant maintenance by a technician. Another weakness is that in most cases these analyzers are not smart enough to broadcast measurement in real-time to the Cloud and they require other pieces of equipment to do that job, as a result, the cost of operation increases.
One more year has passed, one more orbit around the Sun, but still in many places of the world air pollution remains the number one threat for the health of the dwellers and the stability of the ecosystem. The political unwillingness to address air pollution and lots of green-washing from companies haven’t alleviated the situation anywhere. Sad, but even the COP26 was a bit of a fiasco as the leaders of this planet and the majority of the population are still trying to process the information of climate change and air pollution. Apparently, the world doesn’t want to sacrifice convince over the quality of life and life expectancy.
Megalomania and individualism are tearing the ecosystem apart and polarizing the society into left or right, pro-climate or anti-climate, pro-clean air (anapneism), or burn as much fossil fuel, waste and wood as possible. Plastic pollution is another big issue as well.
I have teamed up with a great product designer Nathan Hassanali in our effort to offer clean air to the commuters that need to move around the cities where combustion engine vehicles are unfortunately still a priority over sustainable alternative methods.
The Problem – Air Pollution
One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution, and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility. Meanwhile what can dwellers do to protect themselves from the toxic air that is present in the streets all around the world?
Although air pollution has decreased over the last two decades, it is still a major problem in many areas. ‘EURO standards’ for vehicles have not succeeded in reducing Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions and “defected” vehicles (aka Dieslegate) still circulate without meeting the levels set out in the legislation. Recently, the World Health Organization updated the Air Quality Guidelines (2021 AQGs) which sets the bar for human health high because according to new methods for evidence synthesis and guideline development they found proof of health effects occurring at lower levels than previously understood.
Back in April, I and uRADMonitor shipped 5 Smoggie-PM to 5 volunteers in order to help them raise awareness but also to investigate what people breathe in other parts of the world, like in Belgium, Uganda, Azerbaijan, the USA, and Spain. Unfortunately, the US volunteer doesn’t respond to my emails and he hasn’t set the monitor up yet. I hope he is fine and covid-19 or any other possible problem hasn’t affected him.
In this article, I will analyze the data from two of the locations in order to determine the Air Quality (AQ) and get some conclusions that will help my volunteers. Here are some of the photos the volunteers have sent me.
It is always recommended to place the AQ monitors under the shade as sunlight can increase the internal temperature and consequentially the measurements of temperature and humidity will be incorrect.
On 22nd September 2021, the World Health Organization released the so long-awaited update of the Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). They are bold and ambitious but will governments adopt them?
Let’s see how the updated AQGs compare to the old ones, which were released in 2005. The classical pollutants (Particulate Matter PM2.5/10, and NO2) have been reduced significantly. They have introduced additional AQG levels, such as for peak season Ozone (O3), 24-hour averaging time for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and Carbon Monoxide (CO). On the contrary, they have increased the Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) levels from 20 μg/m3 to 40 μg/m3.
In August 2021 (summer in Northern Hemisphere), I travelled from Spain to Greece in order to visit my parents as I hadn’t see them for a long time due to the pandemic. I visited 10 countries and I evaluated the air quality with a portable air quality monitor (Atmotube PRO) but as well as the behavior of the people in these countries as they tend to have different customs when it comes to cooking or transporting around the cities.
This evaluation is very narrow because of the fact that I didn’t stay longer than a day or two in each city so take it with a pinch of salt. Also, the climatological conditions were entangled to the summer month of August and high temperatures were expected in the Mediterranean coastline. Wildfires are more likely to occur during the dry month of August and indeed I witnessed a few in the Balkans.
Autumn and Winter are almost here for the Northern Hemisphere which means a vast majority of the population is going to leave terraces and other open outdoor spaces for indoor spaces (offices, classrooms, homes, indoor restaurants, etc). Covid-19 is still present, but most importantly, we are going to breathe lots of indoor air. We need to take control of the air we breathe as indoors is much easier to diminish the quantity of pollutants we inhale than been outside.
Covid-19 has ruined the lives of many people, personally, I believe that it is very easy to combat the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces, but we need to follow the rules of proper ventilation and purification combined. Scientists have developed various kinds of technologies that can capture pollutants and pathogens. I don’t want to focus very much on the pandemic rather than how important is to breathe clean and fresh air indoors for so many other reasons.
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.