Wildfires are helping people avoid air pollution in the event of global warming

Bootleg Fire in Central Oregon, Clamat County, Oregon, July 13, 2021, according to a social media photo.

Oregon State Fire Marshall | Via Reuters

Thanks to strong environmental regulations, air quality in the United States and Europe has improved over the past decade, but wildfires increase the risk of new air pollution.

As of August 8 this year, there have been 107 major fires that have burned more than 2.2 million acres in 15 states so far this year, according to the National Intelligence Agency. In Europe, wildfires in Greece and Turkey are now raging in the midst of high temperatures.

As a result, many people turn to mobile apps to understand where the air quality is better or worse. These applications use a mix of data from government-run satellites or weather, fire and ambient air quality stations, as well as sensors and systems operated by private sector entities. Some are compiled from relatively affordable air quality sensors sold by companies such as Purple and IIR.

Air quality applications

According to Jonathan Brisckman, senior mobile intelligence analyst at Cinsor Tower, AirCare, AirVisual and South Coast AQMD are the top rated applications for outdoor air quality control in the United States from January 2020 to July 2021, based on ratings from the App Store. , And Google Play.

The AirCare app shows air pollution, active fires, wind conditions and pollen levels on a map.


Here’s what those three apps do

  • AirCare, Developed by developers in northern Macedonia, it is available for iOS and Android mobile devices, among others, including iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch and Huawei smartphones. Tiers include a free, ad-supported version, 99 cents ad-free version, and a premium, $ 14.99 annual subscription for the pro version. The app includes child-friendly air pollution information, charts and maps showing government levels of pollution from government-controlled sensors and stations across the United States, Europe and Australia. In some major metro areas, the app monitors extreme violet and pollen levels.
  • Air Visual, Developed by Swiss air quality company IQAir, it monitors air pollution in more than 10,000 cities and 80 countries, some of which are located at US embassies abroad. The company’s free mobile apps are also ad-free and available for iOS and Android devices. In addition to real-time maps showing six different levels of pollution, the IQAir Air Visual and Mobile website provides seven-day air pollution and weather forecasts, news related to air pollution, and health information. The apps can be paired with the company’s own sensors, including the Mobile Air Pro Pro, which sells for around $ 269.
  • South Coast AQMD, The same name is a free, advertising-free app run by the Southern California Air Pollution Agency and monitors air pollution, especially in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino. Maps showing real-time and forecast air quality and weather conditions, and where drivers pay for their electric vehicles or where to find other non-traditional gas stations. It also includes information on upcoming environmental events and climate-related political hearings to encourage community participation. The app is available in English and Spanish for Apple and Android devices.

The South Coast AQMD app displays air pollution levels in Greater Los Angeles.


Based on installers, starting in 2020, the five most popular air quality apps in the United States included two of the top rated apps: AirVisual (IQ Air) and Air Care, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency app Ernow, Air Quality, Pollen and Active An app that displays fire information and Oregon Air refers to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, an application from an organization-sponsored startup Breezometer.

Usage of these apps, and new installations are often driven by regional events. According to the NIFC, since August 8, 2021, there have been 16 major wildfires in Oregon.

How air pollution affects health

Janeli Nunez, a post-research scientist at Columbia University’s Post School of Public Health, says air quality control and measurement is critical to public health.

She says strong studies suggest that air pollution contributes to lung cancer, severe pneumonia and respiratory infections and even death, pregnancy and cardiovascular disease.

Nunez works with Marianti-Anna Kyomortugulo in the Environmental Health Science Laboratory. Their research shows that long-term exposure to air pollution can affect the nervous system and affect functions such as memory or cognitive abilities.

The scientists wrote to CNBC by email: Eventually, we will begin to pay more attention to these issues, which we hope will lead to change. Air pollution settings are also changing.

In one example, greenhouse gas emissions in New York City have decreased, and commercial cooking emissions have increased.

As a result of wildfires, scientists write: “The mixed sources and diversity of air pollution we are experiencing may have a significant impact on our health, so we need to better understand the source-specific effects, especially for these new popular sources.”

Indoor air as well

Although outdoor air quality is important, society does not talk enough about indoor air quality, says the dean of the U.S. Davis College of Engineering, now a professor and dean at Portland State University.

Using pre-epidemic numbers, Corsie explained that 70 percent of the 79-year-old Americans live in buildings. Because we spend a lot of time indoors, exposure to outside pollution is even more prevalent, especially in our homes. ”

Excessive pollution from outside combustion engines, photovoltaic fumes, filters, and wildfires can enter homes and buildings through the opening of doors and windows, heating and air conditioning systems, or other cracks in the building. Envelope.

“Consumer applications and devices today do not provide a complete and accurate measurement for consumers in one cubic meter of pollution,” Corsi said. But they are also very useful in identifying trends and relative changes in air quality.

Indoor sensors can work well to test whether air conditioning is working to improve the atmosphere in a home, school, or other building.

Especially in the event of a wildfire, some simple steps to maintain or improve indoor air quality include: Wet-floor floors and pollution to avoid accumulation, contamination, using HEPA or highly efficient micro-air filters, and adding MERV. Or the low efficiency of filters reporting in central air systems in a home.


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