New methods for detecting air pollution

Until recently, measuring air quality has been the job of environmental regulators, who test the level of air pollution with monitors approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But they’re costly and don’t necessarily tell you what the conditions are like in your own backyard or kitchen. Wouldn’t it be great to have sensors you could place inside or outside your home that could report on air quality? This can be particularly helpful information for those with asthma, allergies and other respiratory concerns.

Portable outdoor air sensors

A new generation of portable outdoor air sensors can do just that. Place one in your yard and you can get real-time information about air quality. A network of sensors has even been placed across California’s San Joaquin Valley, in backyards and around schools, to monitor pollution levels in lower-income areas. The EPA is testing portable air monitors installed in park benches that measure ozone and fine particle pollution, along with weather conditions.

Wearable air sensors

The next step for researchers is to develop low-cost air monitoring devices that are wearable. For example, engineers at Arizona State University are testing a wearable sensor that detects hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and acid vapors. It wirelessly transmits location, time and exposure data to a smartphone with an application that stores, displays and transfers the information to researchers.

Air sensors in the home

This new generation of portable air sensors can also be used in the home to test the quality of your indoor air. That’s important because harmful chemicals, exhaust from ovens and other factors, can cause indoor air pollution to be up to five times worse than outdoor air pollution. The reason: Contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up over time. A smart air purifier with a built in sensor, like Coway Airmega, can not only detect, but also automatically respond to the pollution level in your home and reduce the amount of potentially harmful particulate matter up to 99.97%.