Is Air Pollution Dangerous Even If I Can’t See It?

What exactly is a safe level of air pollution? If it is not forming a thick smog, am I alright?  Is it as bad as secondhand smoke? New research from Harvard University experts in environmental health suggests that levels of particulate matter far below EPA regulations are still deadly.

In findings published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal, the researchers used aerosol data to divide New England up into 1km by 1km squares and provide pollution data for each. They then looked at Medicare mortality data for those older than 65 years old from the years 2003-2008, and combined that data with pollution estimates on a day by day basis. There were few places that would be considered “air pollution hotspots” in New England, in fact, only in rare cases did any area exceed the 35 ug/m3 daily limit.

They found that for every 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 over a 2 day period, mortality rates increased by over 2%! That means that even a 2 day period of moderately increased air pollution could change the life outcome of someone who has been alive for 65 years or more. Over the course of a year, they found that every 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with an over 7% increase in mortality.

What does it all mean? First off, the EPA does not write particulate matter regulations based on what is “healthy”. They do it based on what they think is reasonable! This means that just because your area meets EPA regulations does not mean that it is “safe” from air pollution. Particulate matter is not like carbon monoxide, another airborne, invisible and odorless gas. Carbon monoxide is mainly a worry over short, intense episodes of exposure, while particulate matter causes issues over a long period of time even at low exposure levels.

We want to help you take action on reducing these PM2.5 levels so loved ones can live longer! Check it out at joinvivergy.com.

And check out the study here.

–The Vivergy Team

Product Review: AirBeam, the Handheld, Real-Time Air Quality Monitor

Ever wish that you could instantly measure your exposure to air pollution? Or your kids’ exposure to air pollution? Look no further! Today, we are reviewing AirBeam, a handheld, live-streaming device that transfers live air pollution data to your phone via Bluetooth. You can get some background on it here.

What Is It? 

AirBeam is a personal particle counter for the 21st century. It uses a technique called light scattering, which means that it shoots infrared lasers at particles that pass through its chamber, and then counts the number of particles by detecting the deviations in the light as they hit the particles. It counts particulates between 0.5 and 2.5 micrometers, a key measure of pollution and the main measurement we use at Vivergy. It can give readings on air pollution at your location every second for up to 10 hours on battery life. It then broadcasts this data, under your permission, to their crowdsourced dataset, which forms a map of pollution across the country. At a price of $250, the Airbeam’s accuracy is unprecedented for devices of its size and portability.

What’s new? 

AirBeam’s accuracy, functionality out of the box and live streaming capabilities are unmatched. The non-profit that produces it, HabitatMap, has documented its due diligence on accuracy here. For the first time, you can walk around anywhere and get live air pollution readings to your phone. This enables all sorts of applications, from continuous monitoring at public buildings to more accurate health studies on the relationship between asthma and air pollution.

How can I use this thing?

Great question. Let’s imagine that you want to learn more about air pollution at a school in your area. You could take the AirBeam to the school in the morning, and check out the particulate matter levels during drop-off time. Then, you could walk around and see pollution levels on the sports fields, inside the building, and at the drop-off point after cars leave. Then, you could check out air quality at the bus pickup area at the end of the day. You can learn a ton. How does bus exhaust compare to car exhaust? How long does pollution hang around after the cars or buses leave?

What still needs improvement?

Particle counting in real time is still a challenge. Air can be hugely variable in its particle contamination, and a second by second reading does not make it easy to turn this variable data into a consistent trend. AirBeam experiences a bit of sensing latency, in other words, results are delayed by a couple seconds as the sensor averages the new results against past results. Still, it is responsive within 10 seconds to any new pollution source.

Have any questions? We LOVE the AirBeam at Vivergy. If you want to learn more or get this into your community, hit us up at info (at) joinvivergy.com.

–The Vivergy Team

5 Ways that Air Pollution Is Like Secondhand Smoke

How much do you know about the substances that make up air pollution and secondhand smoke? They may be more similar than you think!

Particulate Matter

Air pollution and secondhand smoke can both be quantified in particulates, specifically, particulates with diameters less than 2.5 micrometers. 100 particulates can fit in the width of one human hair! These particulates are so small that they can evade the body’s defenses. Upon inhalation, they stick to lung tissue and can trigger asthma attacks or cause lung cancer.

Deadly

Air pollution and secondhand smoke are harmful at any concentration. Both are known carcinogens. An estimated 200,000 Americans die per year due to outdoor air pollution. Main causes of death include lung cancer and heart disease.

Unintended Consequences

Air pollution and secondhand smoke are both interpersonal in nature. They affect members of society who are not willingly exposing themselves to dirty air.

Avoidable

Secondhand smoke can be eliminated when individuals quit smoking. And air pollution can be reduced when individuals change the ways that they consume energy. Both are caused by individual decisions.

Real-Time Tracking

Both can be tracked right before your eyes with particle counters. You can understand at any given time what you are being exposed to, whether it be air pollution or secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is characterized by short, intense bursts of particulates, while air pollution is generally lower in concentration but consistent over the course of the day.

Also check out our air pollution to cigarettes calculator!

–The Vivergy Team