Pollution-Sensing Technology a Game Changer


Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis. One of these must be the biggest cause of deaths in the developing world, right?

Wrong. It is pollution, not diseases, that causes the most deaths in developing countries. Around 8.4 million lives are claimed each year by various kinds of pollution. That is three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, and four times as many as caused by HIV/AIDS.

India and Africa are areas where there are particularly serious problems. India, not China, is home to the world’s most polluted city: Delhi. The number of PM 2.5 particles, the world’s most dangerous, capable of penetrating the lung and therefore entering straight into the bloodstreams of millions, reached 21 times the recommended limit recently.

These levels are twice as toxic as those in Beijing, the accepted pollution capital of the world. The pollution in India causes 1.3 million deaths a year. It also cuts 660 million lives short by three years. Three years off a life simply because of where a person is born or happens to live.

Pollution is also a danger in Africa, where malaria and HIV/AIDS often take the headlines as the leading killers on the continent. Gaborone, Botswana, ranks eighth in particulate pollution among cities that provided information about their pollution levels.

Besides outdoor pollution being an issue, there is also the problem of indoor pollution in both Africa and India. This is generated mostly from cooking with wood and other sooty fuels that clog up the air. Regulations are lax, toward both indoor pollutants and corporate ones.

Never fear, however. New wearable pollution-sensing technology is on the way to save the day, or at least improve the situation. TZOA is producing a small gadget capable of informing wearers about the air they breathe by using “internal sensors to measure your air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV (sun) exposure all in one wearable device.”

The device can hook up to an app on a phone to give air readings. It is not alone in the small pollution-sensing gadget department. A device that doubles for a key-chain called Clarity can perform a similar task. Clarity tracks “personal exposure to air pollution via a smartphone app,” just like TZOA.

While these technologically advanced gizmos cannot reduce the drastic levels of pollution around the globe that are killing millions, what they can do is help provide data where it is lacking in areas where pollution is prevalent. Data is often not available or not provided in some of the areas with the worst pollution.

These gadgets also have the potential to raise awareness for the severity of the issue. Empowering those in the thick of the worst conditions has the potential to make the severity of the situation clearer to governments as well as ordinary people. Armed with this information, both could take action because of the data provided by devices like TZOA and Clarity.

Greg Baker

Sources: Tech Times, Inter Press Service, Huffington Post, BBC, Wired, New York Times