Why is air quality important?
Most people are unaware of both the quality of the air they breathe and the consequences of breathing polluted air. Actually, as many as 9 out of 10 people live in places with unsafe air – and they are not only in China or in large cities. Poor air quality causes respiratory diseases, heart diseases and stroke, as well as cancer. More than 7 million people die every year because of air pollution. Most people are also unaware of when they are most exposed and what can be done to improve the quality of the air they breathe. If you would know that the quality of the air you breathe is harmful and what makes it harmful, there are often simple measures available to reduce the risks for you and our family. Did you for instance know that riding a car or a bus in a polluted city is worse than walking outside? For sources and more detail, please see https://airmine.ai/air-pollution-kills-and-costs/.
What do the air quality levels mean?
|Level||PM2.5 μg/m3, 24 hour average||What does it mean to you?|
|Good||0-15||Safe and healthy air. Open windows, enjoy outdoor activities.|
|Moderate||13-25||Moderate pollution. Can affect sensitive people. Sensitive people should consider reducing hard physical activities outside|
|High||25-75||Unhealthy air. Sensitive pople (asthmatic, children, elderly, people with heart diseases and respiratory diseases) should limit physical activities. Non-sensitive persons can also be affected.|
|Very high||Over 75||Very unhealthy air! Sensitive people should avoid physical activities. Everyone else should limit physical activities outdoors.|
Seen other numbers in other apps?There are quite a number of air quality indices (AQIs) in use. We have chosen to display PM2.5 particle levels as these particles are the most harmful. We use μg/m3 (microgram per cubic meter air) as unit and the official Norwegian scale. For an overview of air indices, please see Wikipedia – Air Quality Index.
The different pollutants
Particulate matter (PM) PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution), followed by a number indicating the size of the particles in micrometre (μm). These fine particles come from various sources, both natural and man-made, examples are dust, pollen and soot.
PM2.5Very small particles. PM2.5 are all particles smaller than 2,5 μm in diameter. For comparison, a human hair has a diameter between 50-70 μm. Typical sources are wood fires, sand storms, power plants and exhaust from cars. PM2.5 particles are dangerous precisely because they are so small. They are light and stay long in the air and can penetrate deep into our lungs and slip into our bloodstream. PM2.5 particles can cause heart and lung diseases. They are known to trigger or worsen respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis.
PM10Small particles. PM10 are all particles smaller than 10 μm in diameter. Major sources of PM10 are dust from road traffic and burning of fossil fuels and wood. Agriculture also produces PM10. Exposure to high concentrations of PM10 can result in a number of health impacts ranging from coughing and wheezing to asthma attacks and bronchitis to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
PM0.1/UFPUltrafine or nanoparticles. All particles smaller than 0,1 μm in diameter. Major sources for PM0.1 outdoors are diesel exhaust, power production and residential heating. Indoors contributors are typically paint pigments, tobacco smoke, heating and cooking. PM0.1 are harder to measure, they are so small that they are transported deep into our respiratory systems. They can stay in our lungs or in our blood for months, and and cause damage. UFP risk assessment research is still in the very early stages.
SO2Sulfur dioxide. SO2 is an invisible gas with a nasty smell. Most of the sulfur dioxide in the air comes from the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities. Sulfur dioxide affects human health when it is breathed in. It irritates the nose, throat, and airways to cause coughing, shortness of breath, or a tight feeling around the chest. The effects of sulfur dioxide are felt very quickly, typically 10-15 minutes after breathing it in. People with asthma or similar conditions are most at risk from developing symptoms from sulfur dioxide.
NO2Nitrogen dioxide. NO2 is part of a group of gases called nitrogen oxides (NOx). Nitrogen dioxide gets in the air from emissions from cars and power plants. Breathing air with a high concentration of NO2 can irritate our respiratory system. Exposure can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma. NO2 along with other NOx reacts with other chemicals in the air to form both particulate matter and ozone.
COCarbon monoxide. CO is a colourless and odorless gas. Main sources are motor vehicle (car) exhaust and other burning of fossil fuels. High carbon monoxide levels can be harmful to people as it blocks the amount of oxygen transported in our bloodstream. High concentrations of CO is primarily a problem indoors, but CO levels outdoors can be high in developing countries.
O3Ozone. We are here concerned with ground-level ozone (ozone in the stratosphere protects the earth from harmful UV-radiation). Ground-level ozone is a secondary pollutant, meaning it is not directly emitted. It is produced when gases like CO and NOx react. Ground-level ozone is a major health risk, linked to asthma and respiratory diseases.
VOCVolatile organic compounds. There are a lot of various VOCs, both man-made and naturally occuring. Some VOCs are dangerous to our health, like benzene from car exhaust. Indoors VOCs can be released from paint and building materials. Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and can cause difficulty breathing and nausea. Some VOCs can damage the central nervous system or cause cancer.
Who should take extra care?
For people with asthma, pollen allergies or other respiratory diseases, air quality matters even more. These diseases are triggered and worsened by poor air quality. Children, elderly and people with lung or heart disease are also in the sensitive group and should take extra care to avoid exposure to air pollution.
How does the weather play in?
Weather conditions impact the levels of both pollen and air pollution. Topography will often also play a role. Air quality will often be lower in valleys than in the higher area around. Wind will disperse particulate matter and other pollutants and often give better air quality. On the other hand, if the wind blows polluted air in your direction it does not help! Rain or snow will normally help clear the air and give better air quality. The weather can trigger asthma symptoms. Cold, dry air is a common asthma trigger, as well as hot and humid weather. Thunderstorms may give asthma outbreaks and wind affects some asthmatic people.
How about indoor air quality?
Most of us spend most of our time indoors. Respiratory issues (sneezing, coughing) and symptoms like a runny nose and eyes may stem from particles like mite, dust and volatile gases. Major sources of indoor pollution are
- House dust
- Burning fuels (heating, fireplace, candles)
- Volatile gases released from paint and building materials
- Mold and mite
- Tobacco smoke
- Radon gas (from the ground)
What can you do?
Know your air! Stay informed about air quality where you live. Use a reliable source to get current air quality values and forecasts. Consider investing in an indoor air quality sensor/monitor if you are worried or uncertain about the air quality in your home, as well as an air purifier.
Find out what you react to.Track your symptoms if you have any, and compare them with what and how much you breathe.
Seek medical advice!Health professionals should be contacted if in doubt. They can help diagnose and provide appropriate treatment.
If outdoor air quality is poor: Be wise when you plan your day.Can you stay inside during the worst hours? Avoid hard physical efforts on days with poor air quality. If you have to go out, choose smart routes: Avoid high-traffic areas and leave your car! You are better off outside a car than inside. Walk or ride your bicycle.
To improve indoor air quality:Keep your house clean, including upholstered furniture and your pets. Change your air filters. Turn on your kitchen ventilator when cooking and don’t be afraid to open windows to let fresh air in (given that the outdoor air quality is good!).
Make your voice heard!Get involved in local initiatives and help your community improve air quality!
What is pollen and pollen allergy?
Pollen is a plant’s male DNA that is transported to the female part of the flower to enable the plant to reproduce. This is obviously useful, but a lot of people get allergic reactions from the small plant parts. The immune system mistakenly identifies harmless pollen as a dangerous intruder and begins to produce chemicals to fight against the pollen. Pollen allergy typically causes one or more of these symptoms: Runny nose, sneezing, itching in eyes/mouth, stuffy nose (nasal congestion) or swelling around the eyes. Pollen allergies can be diagnosed by doctors and there are several good medications available. The pollen season varies from pollen type to pollen type, and hits at different times in different locations. It’s estimated that one in four in UK has pollen allergies, in Norway the number is around 20% of the population. Among people with asthma, it is very common to also have pollen allergies.
Plants that cause pollen allergy
In general, we react to plants that are wind-pollinated, not those that are pollinated by insects. The pollen most people react to comes from trees, grasses and weeds. Some plant types have stronger allergens than others, like birch, oak and ragweed. Common pollen types people are allergic to
- Grass (gramineae or poaceae)
- Ragweed (ambrosia)
- Mugwort (artemisia)
- Birch (betula)
- Alder (alnus glutinosa)
- Hazel (alnus serrulata)
- Willow (salix)
- Olive (olea)
- Cypress (Cupressus)
- Oak (quercus)
What do the pollen levels mean?
|None||No pollen, plant is outside flowering season.|
|Low||Low levels of pollen.|
|Moderate||Moderate levels of pollen.|
|High||High levels of pollen.|
|Very high||Very high levels of pollen.|
How do we determine the levels?We use the National Allergy Bureay (NAB) scale. The scale translates pollen grain concentrations to the levels above, for trees, grass and weed. Individual exposure limits will vary, some people may be more or less sensitive to different pollen types.
Pollen is released during spring, summer and even autumn. Pollen calendars are based on historical data and give an overview of pollen season for the different species. Onset and duration of the season will typically vary from year to year, based on weather and growth conditions. Norway – NAAF’s pollen calendar
How does pollen vary with weather?
As mentioned above, the pollen that we react to is normally spread by the wind. Pollen from trees can spread for miles with the wind, while pollen from grasses travels shorter distances. Rain will often stop the pollen from flying around and reduce pollen levels. Thunderstorms, on the other hand, may under special conditions cause asthma attacks, known as “thunderstorm asthma”.
Air pollution makes it worse
How to manage your everyday life as a pollen allergy sufferer?
- Get diagnosed by your doctor and get advice and prescriptions for allergy medicines
- Consider staying indoors when pollen levels are high
- Open windows when pollen levels are lowest
- Don’t let your clothes dry outside – they’ll catch pollen
- Wash your hands and face when you come in from outside
- Clean your house regularly
- Close windows when forecast predicts high pollen levels
- Plant allergy-friendly plants in your garden
- Have someone else mow the lawn…
- And get yourself an airminer sensor and mine your own air – or follow the pollen forecasts in the Airmine app. (Appstore | Google play)
Please send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to help you.
My sensor shows no light
Check if the power adapter and USB-cable are working properly.
How do I install and start using my airminer sensor?
The sensor data I see in the app are from before I connected my sensor
There may be some data from our calibration that you see, we’re working on a fix to remove it.
I can’t connect to my sensor
Our sensor uses BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to connect to your phone. For this to work, you need to make sure you have bluetooth enabled on your phone and enabled for the Airmine app (check Settings, see screenshot below for iPhone) Also, you need to be quite close physically to your sensor, let’s say less than 5 metres away. If you are still not able to connect, please try to switch power on and off on your sensor (unplug from power and reconnect).
What happens during and after a power break on the wifi network?
With a power break on the wifi network, the sensor will stop sending data and you’ll get an alert in the app. When the power is restored, the sensor will return to its last connected wifi network and will continue to send sensor data as normal.
Can I change the wifi network connected to the sensor after the first onboarding?
If you want to change the wifi network for your sensor, you’ll need to first choose “Clear wifi config”, then connect to your desired network choosing “Configure Wifi access”. (See instructions in the installation guide) .
Can I move the sensor between different locations?
If the sensor is moved between different locations, you’ll need to reconnect to a wifi network. Please also let us know, so that we can update the location in our systems and register data to the correct place.
Is the connection to my sensor secure? Would it be possible to hack my wifi through the sensor?
Communication to and from the app (including username and password), and to and from the sensor, is done over a secure connection (https). Data from the sensor is stored in Airmine’s cloud storage. Communication from the sensor over wifi will be as secure as you’ve set up your wifi connection with. Nothing is completely secure or unhackable, but the chances of anyone hacking into your wifi through the sensor should be slim.
More app users per sensor
Can more people in my family see the sensor data?
Yes, you can invite friends or family members to see your sensor data. You press the “Add a family member”-button in the sensor screen in the Airmine app, and let your friend or family member scan the QR-code that is displayed in your app. Your friend/family member needs to first have downloaded the Airmine app on their phone.
Access to my own sensor data
Can I download my own sensor data?
It is on our to-do list!
Mounting the sensor
Can the sensor be installed indoors?
airminer 2.0 is designed for outdoor use. If you want to set up your sensor indoors, please let us know so that we can provide you with correct data from your sensor.
How protected does the sensor need to be outdoors?
The sensor should be protected from rain/snow and wind.
How do I tell if the sensor is oriented correctly?
The rounded part of the sensor is the top. The flat part, where there is an air intake for the fan and a small LED light is at the bottom. It is very important that the sensor is mounted correctly.
What happens if I unplug the power for my sensor?
Your sensor will go offline and you’ll get an alert in the app. When you plug the sensor back to power again, your sensor should come online, you don’t have to do anything.
How do I understand the data in the app?
What is displayed in the air quality graphs?
The histogram for air quality shows the concentration of pm2.5 particles in the air around your sensor.