The way forward: The new technology can help people know the extent of pollution in their neighbourhood so that they can take protective measures. Photo: Pixabay

IIT-M develops low-cost mobile air pollution monitoring tech

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) researchers developed a low-cost mobile air pollution monitoring framework in which pollution sensors mounted on public vehicles can dynamically monitor the air quality of an extended area at high spatial and temporal resolution.

The new technology has been developed to manage paucity of Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring stations, the IIT-M researchers said. For the cost of a single reference monitoring station, it would be possible to map an entire city at high resolution using these low-cost mobile monitoring devices, the IIT-M press release stated.

IIT-M professor Raghunathan Rengaswamy said the technology can help people know the extent of pollution in their neighbourhood so that they can take protective measures. Traffic can be rerouted if local pollution levels are known. Government policy changes and smart city planning would benefit enormously from the use of mobile air quality trackers, he said. 

In addition to pollutants, the devices can assess road roughness, potholes and UV index among others. “The modular design of the device allows for sensors to be replaced on demand. The patented IoT side view mirror design enables the devices to be retrofitted on any kind of vehicle. The devices are also equipped with GPS and GPRS systems to collect and transmit location information. Data Science principles are used to analyse the large volume of data generated from these IoT devices.

Greenpeace activists enter Tata steel plant site, demand closure of coke factoreis 

Climate activists entered the grounds of Tata Steel’s plant in the Dutch city of Ijmuiden to protest over air and soil pollution in the surrounding area. Activists, joined by local residents, said the company’s facility in the coastal city is responsible for high levels of heavy metals in nearby soils.

The facility is under scrutiny by environmental agencies and prosecutors are investigating alleged intentional pollution of nearby groundwater, which Tata denied. Activists demanded the closure of coke factories, adding that “poisonous clouds are released there almost every day … That has to stop,” Reuters reported. 

Tata, the largest emitter of planet-heating carbon dioxide in the Netherlands, has plans to change to hydrogen-based “green” steel making—a process that may take two decades if it receives funding.

‘4 day longer in hospital’: Study shows air pollution ‘aged’ hospital Covid patients by 10 years

According to a Belgian study, people exposed to air pollution experienced Covid-19 as if they were 10 years older. The study found people recently exposed to dirtier air before contracting the illness spent four days longer in hospital, the same impact as on those 10 years their senior. The research showed that air pollution levels measured in patients’ blood were linked to a 36% increase in the risk of needing intensive care treatment. A separate study in Denmark showed air pollution exposure was linked to a 23% increase in the risk of death from Covid-19, The Guardian reported.

Rather than assessing groups of people together, the new study followed individual patients. The researchers said reducing air pollution, even when at relatively low levels, increases the health of the population and makes them less susceptible to future pandemics. 

The Belgian study followed more than 300 patients who were hospitalised with Covid-19 between May 2020 and March 2021. Data on the levels of three pollutants—fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and soot—at the patients’ homes were gathered and the amount of soot in the patients’ blood was also measured.

Air-pollution monitors globally may hold ‘unnoticed’ wealth of biodiversity data

New research found thousands of air-quality-monitoring systems in more than 100 countries, potentially already capture and store environmental DNA, or eDNA. There is an “urgency” to further analyse this possibility on a global scale and better preserve existing data, the study stated. Carbon Brief quoted an expert saying that the findings are “extremely important and timely”. 

Scientists said environmental DNA can be thought of as “forensics for wildlife”, as essentially every species is continually shedding trace amounts of DNA into the environment. David Duffy of University of Florida told Carbon Brief: “[eDNA] is the recovery and analysis of DNA that has been shed from organisms into the environment. It’s been shown that we can recover it from things like air samples, soil samples [and] water samples.” This DNA is shed in many forms, including skin cells, hair, faeces and scales. It is a useful tool for measuring changes in species range, among other observations.

Globally, government action to curb air pollution not up to speed with research

Ten years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France, declared that air pollution caused cancer in humans. The number of research studies has almost doubled since, with even more evidence on lung cancer in non-smokers, but globally governmental action to reduce air pollution has not kept up, the Guardian reported. Over the past 10 years, new studies have linked air pollution to other cancers, including breast and bladder cancer. These have also been associated with nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant from diesel traffic that is being targeted by low emissions zones in many cities. 

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