• Do We Need Better Monitors for Air Pollution?

Air Clean Up

Do We Need Better Monitors for Air Pollution?

Jan 22 2021

In 2019, it’s estimated that particulate pollution was responsible for the premature deaths of a whopping 4.1 million people worldwide. In the UK alone, poor air quality was thought to have claimed the lives of over 15,000 people across the nation. How can we tackle this silent but deadly killer? The first step to overcoming any problem is understanding it.

While the importance of air pollution monitoring has become more generally accepted in recent years – especially in the developed world – the network of sensors that currently provide our data is still inadequate. Almost a fifth of the global population resides in countries with no particulate matter (PM) monitoring in place at all, while even in more affluent nations, the hardware is currently lacking.

Insufficient coverage

One of the biggest challenges facing the scientific community is gathering the data in the first place. A recent study uncovered the scale of the problem; at present, around 60% of all nations on the planet do not measure concentrations of PM at all. That means that the 1.3 billion people who live in such countries (or 18% of the global populace) have no idea of the quality of the air they are breathing.


Therefore, the first step to overcoming air pollution must be the implementation of air quality monitors in all parts of the globe. However, that’s easier said than done, especially in impoverished and conflict-ridden countries in Africa and elsewhere. One possible solution could be the combination of urban air quality monitors with 5G communication providers, to effect wireless monitoring that could keep costs down. As yet, no major developments on that front have been forthcoming, unfortunately.

Better quality monitors

Even in developed countries, the problem remains. While a person in Africa may be over a thousand kilometres from their nearest pollution sensor, the average distance in Europe or North America is still over 20km, which doesn’t provide an accurate picture of local PM concentrations. Satellite data can make up for some of this shortfall, but is not adequate on its own.

With that in mind, it’s clear that more sophisticated emissions monitoring technology must be deployed on a more widespread scale if inroads are to be made into the air pollution problem. We can only begin to solve challenges like PM once we have fully grasped the size and scale of the issue, which is why more plentiful and better-quality monitors are required all across the globe.

Tangible rewards

For anyone in doubt over the merits of implementing air quality monitors in an urban location, one need only look to China. In 2008, the US Embassy began independently broadcasting the data that was being collected by monitors on the roof of the building in Beijing. While the results were shocking, they did prompt the Chinese government into action.

Over a decade on and China has made huge strides in tackling its air pollution problem. Although emissions still remain high, the country has poured more investment into renewables research and development than the rest of the world combined, while it also leads the globe in investigating carbon mitigation technologies, as well.


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