How Air Quality Monitoring Technology is Saving Lives Around the World

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Back in 2008, a simple Twitter post started changing lives.

What happened? Well, let’s go back in time to the Beijing Summer Olympics.

When China was first announced to host the Olympic games, many athletes and organizers were concerned about the air quality. China’s air quality has often been a concern due to the high levels of particulate matter caused by factories and transportation in the city.

However, thanks to measures taken by city officials like reduced construction, improved public transportation, and vehicle restrictions—the air quality was far better than expected. On top of that, the US embassy in Beijing started live tweeting air quality levels hourly.

And that was a pivotal moment because it put air quality at the forefront.

Anyone could access air quality levels from their phone and that information empowered them to make better decisions. This choice “dramatically increased attention to air pollution in China," according to Dr. La Nauze. Noticing this trend, researchers from the University of Queensland decided to conduct a study on how air quality knowledge affects our behavior.

Here’s what they found during their research.

University of Queensland’s Study on Air Quality Monitors

In 2022, Dr. Andrea La Nauze and Akshaya Jha published a study showing how the US Embassy air-quality tweets led to global health benefits and literally save millions of lives. Inspired by the events at the Beijing Olympics, they started looking at 36 countries around the world where the US embassy was sharing real-time air quality data on Twitter.

They knew there were cities where residents could access air quality data, but there was still a key question to answer...

Does having access to air quality levels actually affect our behavior?

To answer this, they used tools like air quality monitors and satellite data to measure air pollution in cities before and after the US embassy started posting air quality readings. Researchers also compared those air quality levels to cities that didn’t have live air quality monitoring.

Upon looking at the data and analyzing it, they found their answer.

Cities that shared real-time air quality data with their residents saw lower levels of Particulate Matter (PM) than cities that didn’t share that data. In fact, they saw a reduction of 2 to 4 micrograms per cubic meter each year. With that, researchers concluded that sharing real-time air quality readings can help to reduce air pollution, lower mortality rates, and reduce air quality respiratory illnesses.

"Policymakers, diplomats and community organizations worldwide should push for the rapid deployment of credible, real-time air quality monitoring and reporting."— Dr. La Nauze

This study is a great example of why air quality matters.

Not only does knowing your air quality allows you to be more informed, it also gives you the power to make decisions that lower pollution levels. We hope this research inspires more cities to install air quality monitors and share that data with the public.

Worried About Your Air Quality?

Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.

Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.