Introducing the New Craze Around Town – DIY Air Monitoring
Apr 06 2015
As the population of the world becomes more and more concerned about the state of our planet and how we are helping to deplete its resources and pollute its atmosphere, the quality of the air we breathe has become more of an issue. In fact, even China, which has traditionally been a notorious polluter of the air, with terrible levels of pollution, has entered a new era in air quality monitoring.
It seems another new age is dawning around the globe as well with regards to monitoring air pollution – DIY. Late last year, a Brooklyn-based organisation called HabitMap pioneered a new type of open source monitoring software, known as Airbeam. The idea of the project was that the means to monitor and communicate levels of air quality in and around major cities (such as New York) would be far better placed in the hands of the general public. Such information could be gathered on a more widespread scale and be more readily available, providing a more comprehensive view of the quality of the air we breathe.
Now, it seems the idea has emigrated to Canada. The small port city of Hamilton in Ontario has become the latest to adopt the craze, with five dedicated residents trialling similar software on James Street North late last month.
The Launch of an Exciting New Project
The march encompassed several streets around the city and was the first step in a new project called INHALE – which stands for Initiative for Healthy Air and Local Economies. Starting in the Jamesville and Beasley neighbourhoods of the city, the project will equip willing volunteers with handheld monitoring devices, which they will ferry around town to measure varying levels of pollution.
High read-outs are indicative of dangerously high levels of contamination, which translates as anything above 1,400 on the meter. Around the 1,200 mark the air is considered fair, while 150 to 300 signifies good air quality. Anything below is thought to be very high quality air.
This first trial of the scheme, which is being run by Environment Hamilton, revealed that the air was generally fair, with the exception of busy intersections and gathering places, such as markets. Here the level dropped to “poor” or even “very poor”. It is seen as a way to gather information about air pollution around the city, which can help Environment Hamilton make environmental decisions such as increased street-sweeping or even tree-planting. Hopefully, the open source aspect of the technology will allow for a greater view of Canadian air quality in Hamilton – and increased understanding of how to address it.
Could DIY Air Monitoring Work in the UK?
Later this month, the international Air Quality and Emissions show (AQE) will take place in Telford and is expected to investigate innovative new ways to monitor how healthy our atmosphere is. Among other speeches and exhibitions, David Carslaw of King’s College London will discuss “OpenAir”, which is a software initiative in the same vein as that being used in Brooklyn and Hamilton.
While it’s just one of many solutions being considered for the UK, there’s no reason why DIY air monitoring can’t help improve the quality of our air – and it certainly can’t hurt.
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