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Air pollution: 4 gadgets, apps to help you track the AQI and breathe better

A pocket air pollution monitor, an app that advises whether it's safe to head out and an air purifier that automatically captures pollutants

Commuters out on a smoggy morning amid rising air pollution at Kartavya Path in New Delhi, India,
Commuters out on a smoggy morning amid rising air pollution at Kartavya Path in New Delhi, India, (Hindustan Times)

News about air pollution is all around us again. In New Delhi, the air quality index (AQI) in Anand Vihar reached an alarming severity level of 418 this week, as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). 

In such an environment, people are moving beyond masks to find ways to breathe clean air. From apps to air purifiers, the focus has shifted to technology that can make people feel more in control of their health.

From cardiovascular and respiratory issues to the increased risk of developing dementia and type 2 diabetes, studies are painting a dark picture of the health risks linked to air pollution. While the nation debates possible solutions, new technology has entered markets to enable individuals to address the health risks and take necessary precautions.

Also read: Track the air you breathe with these AQI apps

Many apps, gadgets and websites primarily use AQI to measure air quality. AQI measures the air quality of a region. The higher the AQI level, the greater the air pollution level. According to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, there are six AQI categories: good (0-50), satisfactory (51-100), moderately polluted (101-200), poor (201-300), very poor (301-400), and severe (401-500).

Another term that often pops up is particulate matter (PM). PM 2.5 and PM 10 refer to atmospheric aerosols with a maximum diameter of 2.5 and 10 micrometres, respectively. These are minute pollutants that can be inhaled and deposited in the lungs, causing serious health effects. Other major pollutants include carbon monoxide (CO), ammonia (NH3), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3).

Even in apps that people frequently use, such as Google Maps, information on AQI of their area is readily available. Now, Google is reportedly adding an air quality card to the Discover tab on both iOS and Android devices.

However, if you are looking for more detailed information about air quality, including whether it’s safe to take children out or go for picnics, and buy gadgets that can make sure you breathe in clean air, then check out this list.

Pocket PM 2.5 monitor

Prana Air's Pocket 2.5 monitor
Prana Air's Pocket 2.5 monitor (Prana Air website)

This portable gadget by Prana Air, a product of Purelogic Labs India, is a one-of-a-kind monitor that enables people to measure real-time air pollution levels while on the go. 

The 400 mAh lithium battery-powered sensor can last for up to three to four hours on a single charge. It has an LCD screen that gives a clear PM reading indicating if the air is safe or not. The monitor has a WiFi connectivity feature that can be used to analyze the data on a mobile app. The Pocket Monitor is launching in India at a price of 7,990.

Prana Air also has a pocket monitor to check carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the air, which it claims to be the world’s smallest CO2 monitor. It measures real-time levels of CO2 and has multiple user interfaces. The app gives health advice for indoor CO2 levels, a ventilation score, and monthly insights.

Dyson Purifier Cool Gen 1

Dyson Purifier Cool Gen 1
Dyson Purifier Cool Gen 1 (Dyson)

There is a new air purifier in town. Earlier this week, household appliances company Dyson launched its new line of Purifier Cool Gen 1 in India. The air purifier automatically senses, captures, and traps pollutants to provide clean air. It features the company’s core filtration technology and fully sealed HEPA filters, which can capture up to 99.95% of ultrafine particles, even those that are as small as 0.1 microns. Its air multiplier technology claims to generate circulation that can clean an entire room.

Along with cleaning the air you breathe, its airflow can also help cool you down in the summer. It also has a night mode for quieter purification. The new purifier is currently priced at 32,900.

A screenshot of the website.
A screenshot of the website. (AQI Air Quality Index)

Created by Purelogic Labs India, this website provides detailed information about the air quality in your area and other locations worldwide. Along with the weather, it also provides important health advice on wearing masks, if you should stay indoors, closing the windows, as well as whether an air purifier is required. It also provides live air quality rankings of cities and countries across the world. The website also covers levels of pollutants such as CO2, SO2, NO2, O3 and CO.

Sh**t! I smoke

A screenshot of the app.
A screenshot of the app. (Google Play)

This quirky app attempts to explain the dangers of pollution levels in simpler and more colloquial terms without focusing on PM and AQI. It shows the severity of air pollution by comparing it to smoking cigarettes.

According to its official website, the app is based on Berkeley Earth rule of thumb (that one cigarette per day is the rough equivalent of a PM2.5 level of 22 μg/m3). Berkeley Earth is a non-profit organization that focuses on climate change data and analysis.

For instance, this week, people in Bengaluru have breathed polluted air equivalent to inhaling smoke from 14 cigarettes. While the numbers might not be 100% accurate, as the app states, the visual representation is a good way to understand why one should be worried about air pollution.

Also read: Window to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming will close before 2030: Study

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