Most people know that air pollution is bad for their health and in particular for those with pre-existing respiratory diseases such as asthma. But long-term exposure to pollutants can have serious health outcomes for everyone. That’s why Ambience Data is installing its outdoor air quality monitors in Toronto next week. Outdoor air quality monitors help measure the pollution in the air we breathe. In large urban cities such as downtown Toronto, this is particularly important as air pollutants are more concentrated in these locations.
When parks, or even oceans, are littered we can often see the pollutants which make them dirty. But it's not as easy to see the pollution in the air that we breathe. By monitoring and tracking the air, we can change our daily behaviours, abide by cautions released by public health agencies, and advocate for better air quality.
Toronto will be the first site for Ambience Data’s installation of air quality monitors. Ambience Data’s outdoor air quality monitors are called “Starling”. They are small, white, rectangular prisms (about 9x5x4 inches), displaying the the Ambience Data logo; and is roughly the size of a loaf of bread. This monitor will include sensors for temperature, humidity, air pressure, and air particulates that are in the dust in the air and affect our breathing. These are called particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).
PM10 and PM2.5 are two of the most common particulates in the air and can have severe consequences on our health because they can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. Chronic exposure to these particles increase risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer. Similarly, PM2.5 has been associated with increased airway inflammation in people with asthma.
The installation process is incredibly simple: it solely involves plugging the monitor into a power source. The power consumption is also fairly negligible (it can be compared to roughly 15% of what your smartphone charger would use). The best place to mount the monitor is on a railing, fence or storm drain, or on a flat surface such as a deck or balcony. Air pollution is actually the most concentrated when it is close to the ground so most of our installations will take place on a first or second story deck.
The locations of the Starlings will be throughout midtown and downtown Toronto. In the west end, Starlings will be installed as far as High Park, in the east end Starlings will be installed just east of Woodbine and one monitor will be as far north as Yonge and Eglinton.
Access to the Data
Our monitors can transmit data over wifi or GSM/SIM card. The monitor’s wifi usage is equal to less than 110 megabytes a month, or could be compared to watching the average Youtube video. If access to wifi is not possible, data will be transmitted over GSM/SIM card.
To check out our air quality data provided by our monitors, you can access our map via our web-based dashboard at www.ambiencedata.com.
This is our inaugural installation so we’re looking forward to collecting the data and making it available to people like you! Stay tuned to learn what we discover about the air quality in Toronto! Check out our Twitter and Facebook.