The controversy of the ‘low cost’ sensors and why we are inaccurately measuring air quality

The controversy of the ‘low cost’ sensors and why we are inaccurately measuring air quality

Measuring the quality of the air we breathe has become a paramount issue in our cities. In the short term, decision making regarding traffic depends on this data: restrictions and decisions that alter our daily lives. In the long term, we must design environmental policies that protect the health of the population.

Experts do not doubt the validity of the official data, collected in approved stations that follow European regulations, with expensive equipment specialized in the measurement of each of the necessary parameters: ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter, among others.

A machine that includes all analyzers can cost between 100,000 and 200,000 euros. Except in the case of large cities, many cities cannot afford to have more than one, which is usually owned by the autonomous communities. So, the municipalities don’t possess the necessary information for their citizens regarding one of the greatest environmental and health issues of our time.

Therefore, a new market has emerged: the ‘low cost’ sensors for measuring pollution. Apparently, they collect the same data, but they have such a low price and are so small and manageable that dozens can be distributed in any location and create a network that gives us global information about what we breathe.

Too good and easy to be true? A recent report by the European Environment Agency lists some problems with measuring air quality, which includes an issue with low-cost sensors of dubious reliability, citing their use in cities such as Madrid. The World Meteorological Organization has also studied this issue and, although it considers that it may have some specific utilities, it ensures that they should not become a reference when making decisions. Experts consider that they are very deficient for the measurement of air quality, but that does not prevent them from multiplying the projects that use them, some really curious.

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It’s time that we take soot and pollution from all sources seriously. Certain studies have proven that living around heavily polluted areas can shave several years of life expectancy. It has been discussed that air pollution could be the single biggest environmental health risk. There even is a tool that helps you determine how many years of your life will be shaved off due to air pollution based on where you live.

If you want to know how to reduce your pollution levels and also explore opportunities to implement initiatives to reduce this problem on a bigger scale check this resource out and let us know how you would like to help. Donating or using the tools available will help, because this is a game in which doing nothing is more costly than acting now.

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