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WMO Report Highlights Role of Low-Cost Sensors in Tackling Air Pollution

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes 7 million deaths every year and is linked to various severe health issues.

KJ Staff
WMO Report Highlights Role of Low-Cost Sensors in Tackling Air Pollution (Photo Source: Pixabay)
WMO Report Highlights Role of Low-Cost Sensors in Tackling Air Pollution (Photo Source: Pixabay)

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published a report highlighting the potential of low-cost sensor systems (LCS) to monitor air quality, identify pollution sources, and support strategies aimed at reducing pollution levels in response to growing concerns over the health and environmental effects of air pollution.

The report, titled Integrating Low-Cost Sensor Systems and Networks to Enhance Air Quality Applications, showcases how LCS can address significant gaps in both global and local air quality monitoring networks. These affordable sensors are particularly valuable for informing policies and strategies related to air quality management.

In recent years, LCS deployments have expanded notably in low- and middle-income countries, where they often serve areas that lack traditional, more expensive reference-grade monitors. In wealthier nations, these sensors complement existing monitors, providing more localized, near real-time data on air quality issues such as wildfire smoke and vehicle emissions on congested roads.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for an estimated 7 million deaths annually. There is mounting evidence linking both ambient and household air pollution to a range of health issues, including respiratory, cardiovascular, and pulmonary diseases, cancer, low birth weight, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and mental health impacts.

“Air quality forecasting involving low-cost sensors is an increasingly important field due to its potential to support widespread monitoring and early warning systems, particularly in areas lacking more traditional monitors,” said Sara Basart, a WMO Scientific Officer and co-author of the report. “They are an important additional tool which can be harnessed at the community level to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Produced by WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry project (IGAC), and other international experts, the report was released in conjunction with the WMO Executive Council meeting. This meeting is focused on transforming scientific knowledge into practical services that benefit society.

“Life begins and is sustained with breath, but too many around the world are suffering health problems and death due to breathing dirty air,” remarked Richard Munang, Head of Global Environment Monitoring Systems and Early Warning for Environment Unit at UNEP. “Data-driven policy action towards combating air pollution is critical for efforts to improve global air quality – the more tools we have to support this, the greater our chances of recreating healthy environments for all life on earth.”

Carl Malings, the lead coordinating author of the report, highlighted the collaborative effort behind the document: “We had more than 30 contributors from many different countries. We were able to get a broad spectrum of different opinions and experiences worldwide and synthesize them into a report which really summarizes the best practices for air quality applications from many different experiences around the world.”

The report underscores the importance of leveraging LCS technology to enhance air quality monitoring and management. 

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