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The growing number of chronic illnesses related to bad air quality has highlighted the seriousness and severity of air pollution, responsible for 8 million premature deaths each year across the globe. With 92 percent of the world's population living in regions where air pollution levels are considered dangerous by the World Health Organization (WHO), there is an urgent need to understand better air pollution. If you can't quantify it, you can't even manage it, and you can't repair it.   The new invention in low-cost pollution sensors has enabled future air quality monitoring, which delivers usable high-resolution data at a fraction of the price of conventional monitoring systems. We can now view real-time pictures of where air quality originates and travels, as well as who is most impacted, in more detail than ever before.

With this understanding, we can work across distinct levels of interest to resolve the tensions among social good as well as economic growth, entering a new epoch of population health and thriving cities - and, in the process, creating a new and viable structure of clean air investment opportunities and policies in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution (1). Here are five ways new air data quality reveals more about the air that we breathe and its effects on our health, the ecosystem, and even the economy.

1. The effect of reducing transit-related emissions

A rise in anthropogenic sources from fossil-fuel combustion has occurred due to more vehicles on the road than ever before. It should come as no astonishment that decreasing traffic also reduces pollution and vice versa. Cities have adopted various traffic regulations aimed at reducing both, but quantifying the actual effects has been challenging until recently.

Air quality data with high resolution serves as a measure for implementing and evaluating new traffic management strategies. Cities may track pollutant trends or hotspots - that route and times of day with the greatest concentrations of pollutants - by installing air quality sensors along popular highways and junctions and fine-tune their policies appropriately. Proper air pollution data on the busiest streets may be easily linked with local traffic data to create smart traffic management and reduce congestion. Less traffic, reduced time on the road, fewer air pollution exposures, and all the rewards that come with improved quality of life are just a few of the advantages.

  1. Establishing data openness as the norm

To reflect the overall air quality of a whole city, traditional air quality monitoring stations rely on a small number of data collecting sites. However, according to a 2018 study by the Mayor of London, air pollution levels may differ substantially between two sites just a few meters away. Between the center of a roadway and the sidewalk, a simple shift in wind direction produces a significant variation in air quality. Traditional methods are not flexible enough to capture individual differences in air quality exposure, leading to missing data and skewed answers (2).

The entrepreneurial idea of extremely high monitoring systems and personal air monitoring equipment has opened up new public health opportunities. Even short-term exposure to air pollution reduces productivity and strains our overall health. With improved access and education, everyone may use localized clean air information to analyze appropriate preventative and mitigation measures to enhance their quality of life.

3. Maintaining the safety of schools

Children are one of the most sensitive populations to air pollution; kids are more susceptible to the harmful effects of hazardous pollutants, impair school performance and raise the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems. The installation of proper air quality sensors in schools enables educators to make informed decisions about fostering healthy settings while also providing parents with peace of mind. Schools may take educated steps to limit air pollution exposure while educating and imparting environmental values to children from a young age, whether by keeping asthmatic pupils inside or postponing breaks on a high-pollution day.

In perennially polluted places like London or Beijing, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of indoor retreats against regular outside activity becomes more complex, but perhaps this is where proper air quality data also will play a part in future cost-benefit analysis studies.

4. Supporting the transition to renewable energy sources

As nations transition to cleaner energy portfolios, the resultant reduction in greenhouse emissions helps solve some of the world's most pressing air pollution issues. Air quality data is being used to verify environmental co-benefits and as a proxy for measuring the impact of global warming and policy success.

For example, studies have used air quality data to assess how air pollution prevention aids solar energy production efficiency. In another instance, air quality data recently showed that methane leakage at natural gas production sites throughout the United States had been substantially underestimated (3). With the significant modernization and price reductions in energy technologies over the last decade, it is critical to continue to enhance overall sustainability by bolstering matching air quality monitoring activities.

5. Providing financial support to environmental justice movements

Inequality is strongly linked to the worldwide air pollution problem. From pollutants to agricultural operations, traditional air pollution monitoring methods generally disregard neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood differences in air quality, thereby ignoring the deep-rooted economic or ethnic inequalities in today's worldwide air pollution patterns. According to the New York City Public Air Survey, air quality is unevenly distributed across the city, with low socioeconomic areas experiencing 50 percent greater breathing airborne particles than high socioeconomic neighborhoods.

High-resolution air pollution monitoring networks bridge the knowledge gap, assisting policymakers and community organizers in tackling a wide range of environmental injustices within low-income communities, such as redlining, food poverty, and educational access.


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