- External AQ sensors: sensors that can be placed outside a home, office, school, etc. by anyone.
We start this blog with a post on the importance of independent external Air Quality (AQ) Monitoring Stations, which are the most important tools we can rely on today in order to know what kind of air we are breathing, right now. The right now point is very important.
Is the air outside clean enough in order to go jogging this morning? Should I let the kids go play at the park now or should they stay home for a little longer and wait for the wind to clear out the air a bit? Can I open the window to aerate the house now, or should I wait to do it later on? Have the neighbours started their smelly fireplace or not yet? We are faced with these and more questions daily as soon as we start knowing what Air Pollution is and how it can negatively affect our and our loved ones’ health.
Independent AQ Monitoring Stations give us the answers to these questions.
So, what are these independent AQ Monitoring Stations?
AQ sensors are devices that sample the various air pollutants such as Particulate Matter (PM10, PM2,5 and PM1), Ozone and NO2 along with temperature and humidity and show them on a monitor or on your computer and/or phone. Many AQ sensors rely on the internet to send the data so that we can have them under control anywhere we are via phone or computer.
AQ sensors are affordable today, reliable and readily available from different brands, something that was impossible just a few years ago.
Why do we need independent AQ monitors today?
- Because official state-run AQ Monitor Stations are few in Greece, and their data are not easy to obtain by a simple citizen. But the main reason is because their data are not suitable for our needs to monitor Air Pollution in real time at our chosen location: our home, our school, our office, our street, our sports venue, anywhere we spend time and we want to know the quality of the air that we are breathing right now.
- Because we now know that Air Pollution is the fourth biggest killer after high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar, and therefore we must to be able to limit our exposure to it if we wish so. We can choose to buy healthy organic food but we can’t choose to buy clean air to breathe, can we? The best we can do, then, is monitoring the quality of the air around us and learn the patterns of air pollution in our cities or villages, so that we can minimize our exposure to it. And to do this, we can use independent AQ sensors. With independent we mean monitors that are not the official ones belonging to the government.
The photo above the post title shows three types of AQ sensors, set up on a balcony in Athens. They monitor external air pollutants and send the data to their respective websites, where the readings can be seen in real time on their associated map. The map feature is really useful because it also shows other such sensors spread around the city and the country. This way we can see the levels of pollution around us and in the whole country, and if you enlarge the map, in the whole world, wherever there are installed such sensors.
The Airly sensor is the best of the three, but unfortunately there are not many in Greece yet. But the network is slowly growing, fortunately. It is made in Poland. What we like the most about the Airly sensors is that they have an Air Pollution forecast for the next 24h which is quite reliable. It uses historical and present data from the sensor along with data from other sensors around and from the weather in order to make its forecast. It can even foresee if we will have a very smoky, smelly and dangerous night ahead!
The Airly map shows also PurpleAir sensors and the official government sensors, therefore it is the most comprehensive map of the three. You can see the type of sensors on the left of the screen under “Source”.
The Airly map shows also parameters for NO2 and Ozone where they are available, which is an extra feature that the other maps don’t have. Our sensor in Thiseio (CleanAir in Greece) has them.
The PurpleAir sensor is the most successful independent AQ sensor worldwide, with thousands spread all around the world. It is the most common in Greece too. It became quickly famous in the US with the California bushfires a couple of years ago.
The Sensor Community sensor is made in Germany where it is very common. It is cheaper that the other two and it is made as a DIY project. In Greece it is not common. But it is very reliable and because it is cheap it can be used for school projects for example.
We suggest you to observe the maps daily, find a sensor closer to your home and keep it among your favorites to learn how the Air Pollution fluctuates day after day, night after night. But if you really want to know more specifically what the air outside your home is, it would be best to invest in a sensor to be installed outside your home.
Once you start looking at the maps regularly, you will very likely start putting together several things that you probably have observed in the past, but could not focus well because you didn’t have the means to do so. For example, looking at the maps tonight we can see that the air quality is very bad in our cities and villages, allover Greece. It is easy to guess why: wood smoke. The burning of wood in stoves and fireplaces is a subject that we will discuss about many times in the future posts of this blog, because it is a huge issue that affects our health massively. But government after government, no one wants to address the issue.
Have a quick look at the PurpleAir map here above of the AQ in Greece at 22:00 PM. Almost all stations in the mainland are red/purple, meaning that the air there is Unhealthy to Dangerous. Have a look at the village of Skala, Messinia: PM2,5 is at 822 μg/m3! This is not only unhealthy, but hazardous! In the image I included also the graph for that monitor (high left) which shows that the problem happens there every night, but then, when they stop burning wood late at night, the air goes back to be clean during the day, until the fireplaces are lit up again the next evening. Needless to say, people living there must be totally ignorant about what they are doing to their own health.
Then have a look at the 3 monitors on the islands: AQ is fine there tonight. We know the sensor on Tinos because we installed it: the village has only a few inhabitants and their stoves aren’t enough to fill the air of the village with smoke. Furthermore, the mountainous geography of the village is such that the air can’t get stagnant, so the smoke moves aways quite quickly. Lucky the people living there!
The next types of AQ monitors are the ones that keep an eye on the Air Quality inside your home. We talk about them in this post.