Eco Innovation

On track to breathing clean air

1st November 2022
Sheryl Miles

The government’s target of reaching net zero by 2050 is no secret, and as a result businesses are changing their practices to make this goal a reality.

Air quality, as explained by the UK Government, is “the term used to describe how polluted the air we breathe is”. When the quality is bad, it means the air we breathe may be a danger to people – more so to those who already have heart or respiratory problems.

Safe and clean air is something that can be taken for granted, especially given it is something that can’t be seen, so the danger levels are not obvious.

It is estimated that almost 99% of people breathe polluted air which is above the World Health Organisations (WHO) safe-levels guidelines. Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are some of the pollutants that are a major public health concern.

Speaking at the Hardware Pioneers event in London in October 2022, Mike Coombes of CompAir said: “Many of the drivers of air pollution, for example, combustion of fossil fuels are also sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”

How do you get clean air?

CompAir and University College London have devised a portable, real-time air measuring monitor called an Airtracker. The device uses precision laser optimal technology to detect key airborne pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and Co2.

Alongside a cellular modem is a ublox MQTT Anywhere SIM card that provides access to IoT communication as a service, which allows data from the Airtracker monitor to be retrieved from the cloud. The information taken from the monitor can then be shared to a smart phone, enabling real-time updates.

From the monitor, CompAir can gather data which allows them key insights into where and when air pollution is worst. This also allows businesses to plan how to best safeguard people.

According to WHO, air pollution is one of the top five risk factors for premature deaths globally. They state that household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. It is also a contributing factor for health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and asthma.

Construction and social housing

Two of the most affected areas are the construction industry and social housing – with the latter oftentimes being home to a lot of elderly people.

Under certain circumstances, inside air can be up to five times worse for people than outside air. There is advice on how to limit the amount of bad air that is breathed indoors, such as opening windows to allow ventilation, preventing condensation, and using extraction when cooking. But these steps are small, and they are not fixing the cause of the problem.

By utilising the data received from the Airtracker, it will allow a picture to build up of where and how air pollution spreads. With the detailed insight into these key areas, businesses can then plan a targeted approach to reducing their emissions impact – all of which will contribute to net zero.

Poor air quality can’t be seen, but with such deadly affects it is important that we are not only aware it is there, but that we know where and when the worst effected areas are. That way it can be targeted and reduced – one step at a time.

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