Our knowledge of air pollution is growing year after year. It is more and more common to hear the terms PM10, PM2.5.
In their shadows, smaller and more destructive particles remain suspended. Our knowledge in this area has evolved, whether for very fine particles PM1 , or ultrafine particles also called nanoparticles .
A recent study shows that the right pollution information at the right time can reduce exposure to pollution by up to half.
However, these very fine particles are not measured, and until now we have been sailing blind.
Monitoring of five pollutants is required by law: PM2.5 , PM10 , sulfur dioxide , nitrogen dioxide NO2 and tropospheric ozone O3 . The measurement of these pollutants is done in volume concentration (µg/m3) but does not directly reflect their impact on human health. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) sets its average annual exposure recommendations at 10 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 40 µg/m3 for NO2.
In order to standardize these recommendations, government agencies have set up air quality indices (AQI) which standardize the impacts of these pollutants on health. Thus, if we look at the Plume AQI , we see the following thresholds:
The higher the air pollution, the higher this AQI index will be.
- Between 0 and 20 , pollution is considered low.
- From 21 to 50 , the air quality is considered moderate.
- Between 51 and 100 , pollution becomes high and some harmful effects can be felt.
- Beyond 101 , anyone can begin to feel the negative effects of pollution.
When we know that the PM10 particles are particles with a size of 10 microns, the PM1 are 10 smaller and measure only one micron .
They are so fine that they end up in our pulmonary alveoli when PM10 and PM2.5 particles remain in the throat or in the bronchi.
Scientists know that they cause considerable damage, but for the moment they pass under the radar due to the absence of measures and regulated thresholds.
If we look in more detail at the different categories of fine particles, we can distinguish 2 regulatory ones - PM10 and PM2.5 corresponding to particles whose diameters are less than 10 and 2.5 µm - and a third, PM1, whose monitoring is not required by law.
Yet it is the latter that have the most harmful impact on health because of their ability to penetrate deeper into the lungs. Thus, PM1 reaches the pulmonary alveoli where PM10 and PM2.5 stop at the level of the throat or the bronchi.
New priority target: after PM2.5, PM1 fine particles
On July 8, 2019, the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) issued its opinion on the state of knowledge on ambient air particles, namely: health effects associated with chemical composition, road traffic emissions (source 1)
The expertise, carried out in compliance with the NF X 50-110 standard, falls within the area of competence of the Committee of Specialized Experts (CES) "Assessment of risks related to air environments".
ANSES entrusted the carrying out of the expert appraisal to a dedicated working group (WG).
This WG, formed in September 2015, met 57 times from September 2015 to December 2018.
The work of the WG was then presented and discussed before the CES and was adopted in several stages with the last dated January 17, 2019.
Following these four years of research and documentation, the WG and the CES recommend, within the framework of policies for monitoring air quality and reducing emissions of atmospheric pollutants, to give priority consideration to:
- ultrafine particles (< 100 nm, number concentration)
- carbon soot
- organic carbon
There is a real desire to measure and analyze smaller and smaller particles now, in order to make the necessary decisions that will result.
It is with this in mind that Plume Labs, known for having developed the first Flow pollution sensor intended for a particular use, has been working in recent years.
Their new Flow 2 sensor will measure very fine PM1 particles, which is a huge leap forward for their user community.
It is thanks to their 100% in-house R&D that Flow can stay one step ahead of its sector.
As a preview, we had the chance to test the new Flow 2 model for two weeks, available on the Plume Labs website.
Flow 2: knowledge within everyone's reach
It was not without pleasure that I went to recover the Flow 2 that the Plume team lent us.
The first detail that jumped out at me is the more than successful design of the sensor, whose graphite gray finish remains sober and goes with everything.
So I quickly paired it and connected it to the dedicated Flow app.
After a few days of using Flow 2 without looking at the pollution indications while it was setting up correctly, I started to take a close interest in the data.
Every morning, I cycle from Duroc to our premises at Station F in the 13th arrondissement. I was really curious to realize how much we can breathe while crossing Paris from side to side.
Flow clinging to my jeans, I was ready for my expeditions.
For two weeks, I assiduously wore my Flow 2 and I took the reflex to look at my daily data every evening.
Something amazing happened to me. From now on, the simple fact of knowing what I was breathing changed my outlook on things. When you don't know what you breathe, it's easy to tell yourself that it only affects others.
Once reality is at hand, it's another story. To give you an idea of how information is processed by Plume, I am attaching a screenshot of my application on October 22.
I can then access more precise data for the past day.
For each type of particle and gas I breathed in during my ride, Flow gives me the exact rate. Regarding the most common pollutants such as PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and VOCs, I was able to compare their rate directly with third-party applications giving the pollution.
The big difference is that their data often comes from a single or multiple sensors in a given city. On my side, I had access to my own data, close to the street and at the time when I actually passed by the street, so my data could not be more reliable .
I was also impressed to see the PM1 level I was breathing in real time. As a reminder, PM1 are particles so fine that they can descend into our pulmonary alveoli. The adage the smaller the scarier is well respected with these particles.
On the practical side, I recharged my Flow every other full day, which is appreciable if you cannot recharge it every evening or especially if you forget every other evening, which happens most frequently.
Last but not least, I was able to take advantage of the latest feature to export my data . They came to life in my inbox and I was able to create my own visualizations.
So it's a no-fault for the Flow 2 on my side especially for the price of 159€ with so much technology inside! I'm going to have to return it.
Following the conclusive Flow test, we were able to discuss with Tyler, communication manager at Plume Labs.
We asked him the following question: Why is it so important that everyone can individually collect data on air pollution?
Tyler: "A 2018 study showed that the right information at the right time reduced your exposure to pollution by up to half. It is with this in mind that our team, accompanied by the help of our community of users , let's take action to reveal and resolve these issues. To do this, the updates to Flow 2 take the already vital air quality information offered by Flow to a new level."
We would like to conclude on the fact of the complementarity between the Plume Labs team and R-PUR . Before protecting yourself with R-PUR anti-pollution masks, it is important to understand and measure air pollution on a daily basis in order to make the right decisions to better fight against it.
Thanks to the Plume Labs team for their availability throughout the test on our questions.