Our knowledge of air pollution is growing year after year. It is becoming increasingly common to hear the terms PM10, PM2.5.
Hidden, smaller and smaller and more destructive particles remain in suspension. Our knowledge in this field has evolved considerably, whether it is for very fine particles PM1, or ultra-fine particles also called nanoparticles.
A recent study shows that the right pollution information at the right time can reduce exposure to pollution by up to half.
Monitoring of five pollutants is required by law: PM2.5, PM10, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide NO2 and ground-level ozone O3. These pollutants are measured in volume concentration (µg/m3) but do not directly reflect their impacts on human health. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) sets its average annual exposure guidelines at 10 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 40 µg/m3 for NO2.
In order to standardize these recommendations, government agencies have implemented air quality indices (AQIs) that standardize the health impacts of these pollutants. Thus, if we look at the IQA Pen, we see the following thresholds :
The higher the air pollution, the higher this IQA index will be.
- Between 0 and 20, pollution is considered low.
- From 21 to 50, air quality is considered moderate.
- Between 51 and 100, pollution becomes high and some adverse effects can be felt.
- Beyond 101, everyone can start to feel the negative effects of pollution.
When we know that PM10 particles are the particles with a size of 10 microns, PM1 are 10x smaller and only measure one micron.
They are so tiny that they are found in our pulmonary alveoli when the particles PM10 and PM2.5 remain in the throat or bronchi.
Scientists know that they cause considerable damage, but they are currently under the radar due to the lack of regulated measurements and thresholds.
If we look in more detail at the different categories of fine particles, we can distinguish 2 regulatory categories - PM10 and PM2.5 corresponding to particles with diameters of less than 10 and 2.5 µm - and a third, PM1, whose monitoring is not required by legislation.
However, it is the latter that have the most harmful impact on health because of their ability to penetrate deeper into the lungs. Thus, PM1 reaches the pulmonary alveoli where PM10 and PM2.5 stop at the throat or bronchi.
New priority target : very fine particles PM1
On July 8th, 2019, the National Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) issued its opinion on the state of knowledge on ambient air particules that are: health effects associated with chemical composition, road traffic emissions.
The experiment, carried out in compliance with the NF X 50-110 standard, falls within the scope of competence of the committee of specialized experts (CES) "Risk assessment related to aerial environments".
The ANSES has entrusted the realization of the experiment to a dedicated working group (WG). This WG, established in September 2015, met 57 times from September 2015 to December 2018.
The work of the WG was then presented and discussed before the ESC and was adopted in several stages with the last one on 17 January 2019.
Following these four years of research and documentation, the WG and the SRC recommend that, in the context of policies to monitor ambient air quality and reduce emissions of air pollutants, priority should be given to:
- ultrafine particles
- soot carbon
- organic carbon
There is a real willingness to measure and analyze smaller and smaller particles now, in order to make the necessary decisions that will result.
It is with this in mind that Plume Labs, known for having developed the first Flow pollution sensor for a particular use, has been working in recent years.
Their new Flow 2 sensor measures very fine particles PM1, which represents a huge leap forward for their user community.
It is thanks to their 100% internalized R&D that Flow is able to stay one step ahead of its sector.
In preview, we had the opportunity to test the new Flow 2 model for two weeks, available on the website of plume Labs
Flow 2 : knowledge within everyone's reach
It was not without pleasure that I went to get the Flow 2 that the Plume team lent us.
The first detail that jumped out at me was the more than successful design of the sensor, whose graphite grey finish remains sober and goes with everything.
So I quickly paired it and connected it to the dedicated Flow application.
After a few days of using Flow 2 without looking at the pollution indications until it was properly configured, I started to take a close interest in the data.
Every morning, I ride my bike from Duroc to our office at Station F in the 13th arrondissement. I was really curious to realize how much air pollution particules we can breathe when we crossed Paris from one end to the other.
For two weeks, I wore my Flow 2 assiduously and I took the reflex to look at my daily data every evening.
Something amazing happened to me. Now, just knowing what I was breathing has changed my point of view. When you don't know what you're breathing, it's easy to say to yourself that it only affects others.
Once reality is at hand, it's another story. To give you an idea of how Plume processes information, I am attaching a screenshot of my application for the day of October 22nd.
I can then access the more accurate data of the past day.
For each type of particle and gas I breathed during my journey, Flow gives me the exact rate. For the most common pollutants such as PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and VOCs, I was able to compare their rates directly with third-party applications giving pollution.
The main difference is that their data often come from one or more sensors in a given city. On my side, I had access to my own data, to the street by the time I was actually on the street, so my data couldn't be more reliable.
I was also impressed to see the PM1 level I was breathing in real time. As a reminder, PM1 are particles so fine that they can descend into our pulmonary alveoli. The adage the smaller the smaller the scarier it is, the more respected it is with these particles.
On the practical side, I recharged my Flow every other day, which is nice if you can't recharge it every night or especially if you forget every other night, which is the most frequent thing.
Last but not least, I was able to take advantage of the latest data export functionality. They came to life in my mailbox and I was able to create my own visualizations.
So it's a perfect one on my side especially for the price of 159€ with so much technology inside! I'm going to have to return it. You can find it here
Knowing is having the power to make a difference
Following the successful Flow test, we were able to talk to Tyler, communication manager at Plume Labs.
We asked him the following question: Why is it so important that everyone can individually collect data on air pollution?
" Tyler: A 2018 study showed that the right information at the right time could reduce exposure to pollution by up to half. It is with this in mind that our team, with the help of our user community, is taking action to reveal and solve these problems. To this end, the updates of Flow 2 take Flow 2 to a new level of information on air quality, which is already vital. "
You can also find Aurélie's story who was able to make big changes in her community using her Flow.
We would like to conclude on the complementarity between the Plume Labs team and R-PUR. Before protecting yourself with R-PUR anti-pollution masks, it is important to understand and measure daily air pollution in order to make the best decisions to fight it.
Thank you to the Plume Labs team for their availability throughout the test on our questions.
Particles of the outside ambient air: https://www.anses.fr/fr/system/files/AIR2014SA0156Ra-Emission.pdf