What is and How is AIR QUALITY MEASURED?

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Did you know that lichens and some plants are able to measure air quality naturally? Known as bioindicators of air quality, these organisms grow and proliferate in those environments in which the air has an optimal quality. For this reason, it is common to observe that there are hardly any lichens and other bioindicators in the large cities and main urban centers of the planet, where air quality pollution has become a serious problem of increasing adversity.

In this Green Ecologist article you will learn what is air quality and how is it measured, or what is the same as how air pollution is measured to know its levels, and you will find examples of air quality indices used in some of the large metropolises.

What is air quality

From air quality study it is possible to know the composition and concentration of the multiple gases and particles that are dispersed in the atmosphere. These elements must be in a certain proportion to be able to comply with optimal air quality and balance, that is to say, one that allows the healthy development of living beings in their habitat.

Various factors directly and indirectly affect said air quality, among which various meteorological variables stand out, such as temperature, humidity, winds, rainfall, solar radiation and atmospheric pressure, which condition dispersion and characteristic chemical reactions. of the elements present in the air. To expand this information, we recommend you read this other post on Why is air important for living beings.

In the next sections we will see how air quality is measured, both in outdoor and indoor environments.

How air quality is measured in cities

More and more cities include air quality monitoring systems as an environmental strategy to control and report on the state of air pollution in urban centers and surroundings.

These monitoring systems make it possible to directly supply the air quality data collected to the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS). Thus, records and inventories of the different sources and types of air pollutants are created, with the aim of maintaining effective air quality control programs. The main pollutants detected in air quality monitoring stations are usually:

  • Sulfur monoxide (SO).
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Ozone (O3).
  • Total suspended particles (PST).

How can I know the air quality of my city

With the aim of informing the population on a daily basis about the air quality of the cities where they live, more and more metropolises are using air quality indices available for public consultation. Here are some examples of official networks of air quality monitors in charge of broadcasting daily information on air quality and air pollution in large cities:

  • Air quality web portal of the Madrid City Council.
  • Current state of air quality in Barcelona.
  • Map of air quality in Monterrey.
  • Daily air quality monitoring data in Buenos Aires.
Image: Barcelona City Council, Qualitat de l'aire.

How to measure air quality at home

Did you know that people spend around 80-90% of our time indoors? And without a doubt, our houses are one of the main closed places in which we spend the most time, so having quality air inside is very important to prevent some diseases.

Generally, the presence of air pollutants in our homes depends both on the activities we carry out inside (smoking, using chemical products, being exposed to humidity and allergens, etc.), as well as the predominant products and construction materials and the amount of atmospheric pollutants from outside that reach the houses through ventilation or infiltration systems.

Currently, there are different devices capable of measure and control air quality at home, among which the IoT and Nanoenvi IAQ models stand out. These sophisticated devices continuously monitor air quality in real time, alerting when it is necessary to ventilate the house and making it possible to control its sensors through mobile applications.

Consequences of air pollution

There is a negative relationship between air pollution and the effects on the health of people and the environment. Various clinical studies determine how being exposed to an excess of air pollutants on a daily basis has various health effects. Some consequences of air pollution for our health are:

  • Respiratory problems.
  • Increase in allergies.
  • Dermal problems and infections.
  • Heart diseases.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

If you want to know more about this negative relationship between air pollution and our health, you can consult these other articles by Green Ecologist on Health problems due to air pollution, which includes an informagraphy, and Air Pollution: causes, consequences and solutions.

Likewise, in situations of alert and emergency due to air pollutionNot only people are affected, but also other living beings that breathe the gases present in the polluted atmosphere.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is air quality and how is it measured, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

  • Anze, R. et al., (2007) Bioindicators in the detection of air pollution in Bolivia. REDESMA Virtual Magazine, Volume 1 (1).
  • Carazo, L. et al., (2013) Indoor air pollution and its impact on respiratory disease. Journal Archives of Bronconeumology, Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery. Volume 49 (1), pp: 22-27.
  • Lacassaña, M., Aguilar, C. & Romieu, I. (1999) Evolution of air pollution and impact of control programs in three megacities in Latin America. National Institute of Public Health of Mexico. Volume 41 (3), pp: 203-214.
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