How Researchers Are Studying Air Quality in Africa

Air Quality in Africa

When we think of air quality, oftentimes, we focus only on our local region.

But the truth is—air quality is a global issue that affects everyone. And while some countries like the US have improved their air quality in the last 40 years, many others are seeing higher levels of air pollution, especially in areas that are industrializing quickly.

In 2019, there were an estimated 1.1 million deaths throughout Africa due to air pollution. And that’s not including other health problems caused by poor air quality either, like respiratory illnesses. This week, we wanted to shed light on what researchers in Africa are doing to bring attention to air quality there.

The Problem with Studying Air Quality in Africa

All over Africa, many countries are modernizing and industrializing—but that good news comes with a catch. While the quality of life is increasing, air quality has been getting worse. Household air pollution is one major cause of air pollution in Africa. And while it is declining, the overall ambient air pollution is still increasing.

But how much worse is air pollution in Africa?

Well, it’s hard to tell because of the limited air quality data throughout the continent. The current air quality readings academics have gathered do indicate high concentrations of fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5). That being said, the data is lacking so we can’t see the big picture.

We do know there the causes of air quality pollution in Africa, such as:

  • Solid fuels for cooking: Many Africans still use woodburning or charcoal for their cooking needs, which harms everyone in the household.
  • Fossil fuel use: Oil, coal, and gas are still being used in Africa, and various countries have been slow to change these practices.
  • Vehicles emissions: Another problem is that older, inefficient cars are emitting toxic gases and particulate matter into the air.
  • Industrial activities: Mining, agriculture, and open waste fire pits are still too common all over the continent.
  • Lack of awareness: Another issue is that many don’t know the harms of poor air quality and only 17 countries in Africa have implemented policies for national air quality standards.

The next question is: What do we do about it? Well, researchers have been looking into air quality monitors to see which ones are effective in helping to effectively track air quality. And PurpleAir has often been cited in research as part of that solution.

How Academic Researchers Are Using PurpleAir Air Monitors in Africa

Sponsored by African Centre for Clean Air (ACCA), this study by Babatunde Awokola and his team of researchers focused on whether low-cost air quality monitors could help fill the gap in knowledge about Africa’s air quality.

First, they installed PurpleAir’s air quality monitors in various locations throughout 9 different countries. Here is a map of all the locations of the air quality monitors:

Once they were set up, they recorded data from them for 30 days. During that time, they were able to evaluate the air quality in those locations, and then determine if the data was reliable and accurate enough to be used.

At the end of the study, researchers confirmed that our air quality monitors were more than capable. Because of the low cost, they also concluded that this created more opportunities for commeunity scientists to participate and know their air quality data in real time.

We’re thrilled to hear that communities across the globe are using our air quality monitors. Together, we’re working to make air quality data accessible for everyone.

Connect with PurpleAir

At PurpleAir, there are tons of organizations around the world using our data—from Google to the EPA. We’re thrilled to see technology and research projects like this one, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future.

Are you a technology company or institution looking to work with PurpleAir?

We’d love to connect and see how we can help you. Whether you’re interested in our air quality monitors or using our air quality data for your projects, feel free to reach out.