Air Pollution is impacting millions of people every day.
Here are some frequently asked questions which we hear about air pollution.
Why is air pollution important?
Because the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 7 million die prematurely every year because of air pollution; and according to the World Bank, it costs the global economy more than $5 trillion annually in social & welfare costs, including $225 billion in lost income alone.
Where does air pollution come from?
Air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources. Traffic, (including public transport) but also central heating systems, industrial operations, waste sites, energy generation, aeroplanes, shipping, and even agriculture.
Isn’t air quality already measured today?
Yes, but poorly. Statutory reporting around the world (including Defra in the UK and the EPA in the US) only requires ambient average readings from a small number of monitoring stations, so a city like London has only 15 particulate (PM2.5) monitors covering 1500 km2. All published data is modelled and based on averages; it therefore can’t pick up transient pollution hot spots – which are very harmful to human health – or even tell you if a city block is on fire.
What about the Air Quality Indexes, and the apps that show your local air quality?
They’re all based on that inaccurate data, so provide a misleading and usually out of date view of air pollution.
What can you do? Is it really possible to reduce your exposure?
Yes, because air pollution is highly localised and changes minute-to-minute. If it’s measured locally enough and reported in real-time, you can be alerted to avoid hot spots, and apps can plan low-pollution routes for you, avoiding up to 60% of the pollution. Because there are so many sources and the picture is so complicated, there is no simple answer to reduce air pollution in the near future, so it’s best to plan to avoid it – and for that, you need much better data.
Is there really a problem in European cities?
Yes, and mainly because the health impacts from air pollutants occur at very low levels of pollution. Cities with very high pollution levels such as Beijing or Delhi are of course a major problem, but in fact, most of the impact on your health has already happened at much lower levels – more like the average European city. Every bit of pollution you can avoid therefore has a direct influence on your short- and long-term health outcomes.
Won’t electric cars solve the problem?
No. EVs in real volume are still some years away, and anyway, the only thing cut by EVs are tailpipe gas emissions – they don’t reduce carcinogenic particulates by much. And traffic fumes account for less than half of urban air pollution – the rest comes from other sources.
What about the AQ sensors selling for less than £200?
Unfortunately, the data from them can be very inaccurate, mainly because they can’t be calibrated after you’ve bought them. They also often use a single gas (Carbon Monoxide) as a proxy for all the other pollutants.
But pollution has gone down significantly during the lockdown - will it come back?
Yes it will. Pollution has dropped while we are all locked down because road and air traffic has almost disappeared and the temperature has been higher, meaning less central heating use. But when the lockdown is over, people will likely go back to doing exactly what they were doing before, and the pollution will return. In fact, it will matter even more than before.
Why this is even more important now, with Covid-19
Medical research shows that people that are exposed to even tiny increases in air pollution have a much higher chance of dying from Covid-19. Millions of people across Europe will, therefore, become much more vulnerable to post-Covid-19 complications. It is vital that we provide hyperlocal, real-time information to those people as well as the existing vulnerable groups – asthmatics, heart disease patients, the elderly, and those with young children.
Why hyperlocal? Why real-time? Why continuous?
- Hyperlocal monitoring: far greater sensor density than currently installed (around 100x more) because air pollution varies greatly over short distances and minute to minute – you simply can’t know what is happening if your sensors are 1km or more apart.
- Real-time data: because without it authorities can’t plan and/or measure the effectiveness of interventions, ensure enforcement of regulations, or and vulnerable citizens can’t be alerted to avoid hot spots.
- Continuous operation in fixed locations is important because without it you can’t build a real picture of pollution or activity over time, and therefore be able to analyse how to make changes to reduce pollution properly.
How does external air pollution relate to internal? Which is worse for me?
Internal air pollution comes partly from what’s outside, but adds to it a range of chemicals from cleaning fluids, carpets, etc. It’s important to keep your house well ventilated – unless the external pollution is bad.
How many people die from air pollution?
The World Health Organisation and the European Environment Agency estimates are that 500,000 people die early every year across Europe as a result of air pollution, and tens of millions more are impacted in the long term. It’s the single biggest environmental threat to life that we face.
Why can’t government do this?
Government could do this with our technology, but to date, no European government has allocated the budget to do so (despite spending 10,000 times as much on fixing public health as they would on this key preventative measure). So we’re doing it for them.
Can I have an air pollution monitor outside my home?
Yes you could – we’re in the process of producing a new lower-cost monitor especially for individual use on housing etc. To register your interest or subscribe to updates about the app, please complete the form on our Contact Us page.
Can I have an air pollution monitor inside my home?
Yes – we’re adapting internal sensors we use in commercial buildings for home use. To register your interest or subscribe to updates about the app, please complete the form on our Contact Us page.
When will the personal exposure tracking app be available?
We are currently developing the app. If you would like to receive updates on our developments, please complete the form on our Contact Us page.