Conference PaperPDF Available

Citizens4sciences approach in monitoring air quality and personal exposure to PM2.5

Authors:
  • Health and Environment Alliance, Brussels, Belgium
  • University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Medicine, Novi Sad, Serbia

Abstract

Air pollution is associated with adverse effects on public health. Pollutant concentrations are typically subject to a high spatial and temporal variability. For public health risk assessments, however, it is necessary to quantify human exposure to specific pollutants of concern. This project focused on the development of methods for personal exposure monitoring and development of the tools “citizens for science” approach for better observing, understanding, protecting and enhancing our health and environment. An experimental design with wearable personal monitoring device that monitor PM2.5 was deployed. AirBeam devices were used to measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5), temperature, relative humidity and noise level. Real-time monitoring of PM2.5 were performed by citizens, during 24 hours’ period and paired with personal activity diary. This pilot study explored the possibilities in implementing methodologies, to understand more about the associations between air pollution concentration and personal exposure depending on time-activity and to compare real-life personal exposure and concentrations captured by nearest official monitoring station. The approach is important not only for research, using ‘citizens4sciences’ and big data approach in monitoring of environment indicators important for population health, but also as motivation for citizens to understand the importance of air quality monitoring for their health.
ZBORNIK RADOVA 13. REGIONALNE KONFERENCIJE IVOTNA SREDINA KA EVROPI
NVIRONMENT TO EUROP ONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, BELGRADE, SERBIA, 2017
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1
Abstract: Air pollution is associated with adverse
effects on public health. Pollutant concentrations
are typically subject to a high spatial and temporal
variability. For public health risk assessments,
however, it is necessary to quantify human
exposure to specific pollutants of concern.
This project focused on the development of methods
for personal exposure monitoring and development
better observing, understanding, protecting and
enhancing our health and environment. An
experimental design with wearable personal
monitoring device that monitor PM2.5 was
deployed.
AirBeam devices were used to measure fine
particulate matter (PM2.5), temperature, relative
humidity and noise level. Real-time monitoring of
PM2.5 were performed by citizens, during 24
h
diary.
This pilot study explored the possibilities in
implementing methodologies, to understand more
about the associations between air pollution
concentration and personal exposure depending on
time-activity and to compare real-life personal
exposure and concentrations captured by nearest
official monitoring station.
The approach is important not only for research,
monitoring of environment indicators important for
population health, but also as motivation for
citizens to understand the importance of air quality
monitoring for their health.
Key words: monitoring, air quality, personal
exposure, citizens4sciences
Apstrakt:
povezano sa negativnim uticajem na javno
-
ama koje se
Ovaj rad je fokusiran na razmatranje metoda za
nauku" kako bismo mogli bolje da posmatramo,
Razvijen je i diz
su povezivani s dn
metodologije, bolje razumevanje povezanosti
ekspozicije i koncentracija najb
kvaliteta vazduha.
monitoring kvaliteta vazduha za njihovo zdravlje.
CITIZENS4SCIENCES APPROACH IN
MONITORING AIR QUALITY AND
PERSONAL EXPOSURE TO PM2.5
1 2,3, Catherine Bouland3
1Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Brussels
2University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina
3Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), School of Public Health, Research Center for Environmental Health
and Occupational Health
ZBORNIK RADOVA 13. REGIONALNE KONFERENCIJE IVOTNA SREDINA KA EVROPI
NVIRONMENT TO EUROP ONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, BELGRADE, SERBIA, 2017
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:
BACKGROUND
Air pollution is associated with adverse effects on
public health. It is a major cause of cardiovascular
and respiratory morbidity and mortality [1-4].
Review of epidemiological, toxicological and
public health studies have shown that there are
effects of both short and long term exposure to air
pollutants [5]. Chronic exposure to air pollution, in
particular to PM2.5, is associated with
atherosclerosis, higher risk of cardiovascular
events, asthma, adverse birth outcomes and
childhood respiratory disease. While, emerging
evidence also suggests possible links to
neurodevelopment and cognitive function as well as
other chronic disease conditions such as diabetes
[5].
Pollutant concentrations are typically subject to a
high spatial and temporal variability. Consequently,
human exposure to air pollutants varies
significantly over time and in space. Human
exposure is also subject to changes due to
individual daily mobility patterns, air chemistry,
microclimatic and meteorological influences over
space and time, resulting in high spatial and
temporal variation of ambient pollutant
concentrations [6].
Citizens for science data gathering and novel
monitoring technologies have been emerging to
capture, analyse and survey the (big) data, thus
facilitating their exploitation mainly for
environmental policy and society [7]. The citizens
are becoming integral and active part of data
gathering and in the same time raising awareness of
the issue studied. As a consequence, active
levels (personal, community, policy, etc.) have
been noticed.
For risk assessments, health impact assessments
(HIA) and public health advice, however, it is
necessary to quantify real-world human exposure to
specific pollutants of concern, since it may
significantly differ from the concentrations
measured by the static monitoring stations.
The aim of this study was to explore possibilities of
using portable and low-cost personal exposure
monitors of air pollutant PM2.5 for observing real
world human exposure in everyday activities. Next,
we discuss some of the challenges involved in
personal exposure monitoring.
We focus within this project on the development of
methods for personal exposure monitoring and
approach for better observing, understanding,
protecting and enhancing our health and
environment. In this paper, we present socio-
demographic characteristics of the participants and
the challenges in monitoring personal exposure to
air pollutants with low-cost device we encountered
in this pilot study. Full analysis of the results of the
study is out of the scope of this paper.
METHODS
For the purposes of the study, an experimental
design with small, wearable personal monitoring
devices that monitor PM2.5 were deployed in two
cities in Serbia (Belgrade and Novi Sad).
This pilot study objectives were to measure
personal exposure to particulate pollution (PM2.5)
for 24 hours using real-time exposure monitoring
and to:
(1) explore possibilities in implementing
methodologies and its use in personal exposure
monitoring
(2) understand more about the associations
between air pollution concentration and personal
exposure to them in connection to time-activity
(3) compare the personal exposure to
concentrations in real-life to concentrations
captured by nearest official monitoring station
(4) compare exposure in Belgrade and Novi
Sad (Belgrade with only one PM2.5 monitoring
station now represents whole Serbia pollution to
PM2.5)
Design and area:
This was pilot study of personal exposure
monitoring to PM2.5. The area for the pilot study
were agglomeration Belgrade and the city of Novi
Sad. Belgrade is capital city of Serbia with approx.
1.5 mil inhabitants spreading at the area of 360km;
with the only one monitoring station for PM2.5
deployed in Serbia. Novi Sad is second largest city
in Serbia and the capital city of region Vojvodina
with quarter of a million of inhabitants.
Measures:
During the month of April 2017 participants wore
portable measuring device during 24 hours to
record levels of PM2.5 in the air. Participants are
asked to record a time-activity diary every hour.
Researchers collected hourly data on concentrations
of PM2.5 from nearest official monitoring station
(managed by Serbian Environmental Agency,
SEPA) in Belgrade, and for Novi Sad accredited,
not-official monitoring station managed by Medical
Faculty Novi Sad.
Monitoring device:
Habitat-map for PM2.5 was used [8]. It is an open
source tool that measures fine particulate matter
(PM2.5), temperature, and relative humidity using a
light scattering method, no sensors directly
measured particulate mass.
ZBORNIK RADOVA 13. REGIONALNE KONFERENCIJE IVOTNA SREDINA KA EVROPI
NVIRONMENT TO EUROP ONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, BELGRADE, SERBIA, 2017
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The device has been tested against scientific
instruments and is reliably accurate up to 100ug/m3
(micrograms per cubic metre). It continues to give a
good representation of PM2.5 levels from 100 to
300ug/m3, though accuracy does decrease [9-10],
compared to measurements from reference
instruments for three aerosols (salt, welding fume,
and Arizona road dust, ARD) at concentrations up
to 8500 µg/m³. Compared to reference instruments,
mass concentrations measured with the AirBeam
(0.7 0.96) were less correlated. AirBeam bias was
Precision was excellent for the AirBeam (2% to
9%) [11].
The device is connected via Bluetooth to the
data is synced real-time with the global database.
On the website http://aircasting.org/ it is possible to
map the participant and retract synced data. It is
also visible the GPS locations of the exact
measurement by minute. When paired with the data
collected on mobility/activity patterns, it is
providing more precise data on activity-exposure
variations.
Comparative advantage of this device is its small
size (hand size) to the devices used in other similar
studies that were backpack size and more
automated [6,12].
Questionnaire:
We used a questionnaire to collect basic socio-
demographic data of the participants (namely: year
of birth, gender and education) and 10 variables to
assess baseline possible exposure to air pollutants
(e.g. smoking, use of fuel for heating) and health
status (being diagnosed with respiratory,
cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes).
Participants:
In total 19 participants were monitoring the
personal exposure to the PM2.5 with four AirBeam
devices in April 2017. Out of 19 participants, two
did not fully complete the mapping exercise (see
discussion of challenges further), 2 we could not
retract the data, because of the issues discussed in
the challenges. The average age of the participants
was 42, ten (53%) were female and all participants
were university educated.
RESULTS
Results consist in a list and analysis of the
challenges in personal exposure monitoring with
low cost monitoring devices. Those challenges
should certainly be considered when designing a
personal exposure monitoring study.
Each challenge noted in out paper could be grouped
in more than one of following challenges: (1) to
devices itself, (2)
study protocol - participants motivation to monitor
the air pollution and record their daily activities,
and to other (3) to technical and technological
challenges during the period of the pilot study.
Some of them may significantly impact the study
results.
Synchronisation of the data
Number of participants could not synchronize data
to the global database. AirBeam device is via
Bluetooth connected to the mobile app and should
stream all recorded data to the main database from
which is possible to extract all needed datasets. It
proved to be challenging task for participants to use
smart phones, Bluetooth technology and data
technology to sync the data.
Moreover, we noticed that recording or syncing is
not done in some cases, because the Internet
connection, the Bluetooth or the GPS signal is
interrupted. In some cases, it was due to the fact
that mobile app was operating recording and sync
function, and priority signal (phone call for
example) would block the app operation.
To overcome this limitation, we suggest improving
the devices to include GPS and SIM (with data)
technology in the device itself, so that it can operate
automatically and independently of the smart phone
app.
teracy
Low-cost devices, we used in the study, were low
level of automation and operating them required
knowledge and technical intuition in device
operation, app operation Bluetooth technologies
and GPS operation. Participants in our study were
all highly educated individuals with various levels
of mobile-technologies literacy. Several of the
participants tried to operate the devices and soon
dropped out of the study since they could not get
any recordings. We have tried to overcome this
challenge by providing the participants with easy-
to-read instruction tutorial, for some of the
participants one-on-one setting the parameters for
recordings, and online support 24/7 via WhatsApp
for any question or query from the study
participants. However, those measures did not
prevent some dropping-out of participants and
inadequate recordings.
We think that a higher level of automation of the
devices would help to reduce the dropping-out rate
of participants and to increase the adherence to the
study protocol (recording the full length of the
study period for each participant). Higher levels of
the automation could also increase the rate to which
big data could be gathered since it requires less
process of the recordings. Alternatively, if the
automation and upgrade of the devices is not
feasible, training of the participants and dedicated
staff to on-time answer questions of the study
participants might be a solution to increase
ZBORNIK RADOVA 13. REGIONALNE KONFERENCIJE IVOTNA SREDINA KA EVROPI
NVIRONMENT TO EUROP ONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, BELGRADE, SERBIA, 2017
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operate
the devices correctly.
Real-time display of results
The AirBeam device sends its monitoring
measurements at the real-time to mobile app. It
shows in easy-to-understand way what is the
concentration of PM, as well as some other
variables (humidity, temperature, and noise levels).
However, it would be added value from
communications point of view if the real-time
display of PM2.5 would show current PM2.5 levels
at the device itself. The real-time display of the
results could serve as the additional motivation for
participants who are more likely to engage on
policy levels or raising awareness of the public.
Full length recordings and tracking human
activity
monitoring of the air pollutant, GPS location and
other variables of the study are recorded in full
length and during the study period. Omitting some
recordings poses a bias and may jeopardize the
study conclusions. Technical obstacles and lack of
automation of the monitoring device present a
challenge since it places more burden on the
participants, leading them to have to remember to
record sessions, to check if the recordings are really
being made or are interrupted for some reason, to
correctly name and tag the sessions for later use of
the research, etc. On top of the air pollution
recording work participants need to do, they need to
track their daily activities and provide information
that could be of interest and importance in the data
analysis.
Making use of citizens4science data gathering
Monitoring air pollution could have a significant
value as educational tool to raise awareness on
people's activities and habits and their resulting
exposures. Furthermore, data gathering could
engage citizens in improving the status of air
quality in their communities by personal behaviour
changes or by influencing local or national policies
and air quality action plans.
Citizens4science have the capacity to gather large
data sets of personal exposures and generalisation
of results to the larger populations, although,
analysis must be done with care and taken in to
consideration representativeness to various
populations.
Motivation of the participants
Another challenge is related to the motivation of
the enrolled participants to record all the sessions
during the period of 24 hours. It was often the case
that participants forgot, were too busy or another
reason that prevented them to record all 24 hours
consecutively. Additional motivations should be
found to encourage full compliance to the schedule
of the study recordings, such as incentives for
participating. Some groups could be more
motivated to fully comply with the study protocol,
such groups could be respiratory patients who could
explore air pollution levels in their environment and
benefit from the knowledge gained (behaviour
change and thus reduce personal exposure).
Knowledge gathered from specific populations
personal exposure (e.g. asthma patients) would be
very valuable in making links to health outcomes
and real-time exposure to air pollutants, however,
the generalizations to other population should be
done with care.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
With this pilot study, we tried to estimate the
variability of individual exposure to PM2.5 and see
how it relates to the data provided by official
monitoring of PM2.5
Such studies could have the implications in
supporting the health impacts assessments (HIA),
various decisions making regarding safe air
co-creations of solutions how individuals could be
exposed to less total load of PM2.5, or it could
influence individual decisions on mobility patterns
or changes of personal behaviours or ways of
living.
Monitoring of air pollutant concentrations is mainly
a task performed by authorities. However, in recent
years the technologies to measure air quality have
become more affordable and reliable. Crowd use
and citizens4science approach is providing big data
on concentrations of air pollutants and real-world
exposure. Is it to complete monitoring done by
authorities, is it the raise a community approach, or
for other purposes?
Monitoring air quality with similar devices could be
very useful for the places where there are scares or
no monitoring of air pollutants, or where citizens
suspect authorities are manipulating the data.
This pilot study has demonstrated, as proof of
concept, that small, portable, low-cost devices for
measuring air pollution could be useful tool in
generating knowledge and have significance in
clinical researches that aim at tracking personal
exposure and linking it to the health effects of the
individuals as well as increasing citizens and
community engagement on air pollution problems.
Opportunities to gather big data on personal
exposure and health status via citizens4science
approach should be further developed and utilized.
Previous studies have shown that the application of
a low-cost monitoring solution provide reliable
exposure information event though such monitors
do not deliver the same precision as reference or
... Thus, it is possible to estimate daily lung intake of pollutants. Health professionals and scientists have so far been experimenting with personal air pollution monitoring and health outcomes recordings [10]. Sofia is also part of the "citizen science" network of fine particle sensors coordinated by the University of Stuttgart https://luftdaten.info. ...
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