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Dyson Investigates the Effect of Lockdown on Air Pollution

Air Quality

Dyson's air quality backpack investigates air quality

June 15, 2020, 10:18 am

Participants in 14 cities globally, including Dubai, are using Dyson’s air quality backpack to collect air quality data, to generate snapshots of their personal exposure to air pollution during and after lockdown.

Dyson’s air quality backpack, which was developed for a research study with Kings College London and the Greater London Authority, has on-board sensors, a battery pack and GPS, allowing data to be collected on the go. Re-working existing sensing technology used in Dyson air purifiers, engineers designed the portable air monitoring device, engineering it to be smaller, lighter, and more portable, whilst still accurately capturing PM2.5, PM10 and VOC and NO2 exposure.

This initiative comes in line with data being collected in the UAE analysing the lockdown measures put into place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has recorded an average 30 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide(NO2) levels from February 1 to April 30, 2020, according to the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE). As a result, air quality has significantly improved during this period as levels of air pollution decreased due to less vehicle use.

The global project spans three continents and 14 cities, which also include London, New York, Delhi and Milan. The collected data will be compared with local city air quality sensor data and indoor air quality data from Dyson’s connected purifiers, to develop a picture of the changes in air quality in cities globally throughout this period.

Phase one involved participants wearing the backpack to collect air quality data during lockdown. In line with local government guidelines, participants wore the backpacks during permitted lockdown travel such as visits to the grocery store, daily exercise routines or a key worker’s commute. This data will give us a snapshot of the air quality the participant was exposed to on a typical day in lockdown.

As of recent news, the UAE and Dubai, in particular, has began to gradually ease lockdown measures to restart economic activity. However, residents are still being urged to remain vigilant by staying at home and working remotely wherever possible.

With these restrictions in cities now being lifted, phase two will commence. Participants will then travel with the backpack on the same route they took during lockdown, to build a second snapshop of air pollution exposure outside of the lockdown period. Dyson engineers will compare these two data sets, to better understand the effect of lockdown on the day-to-day air quality exposure of individuals living in cities.

To ensure the accuracy of the outdoor backpack sensor data, readings from Dubai’s monitoring stations will be gathered to further validate the findings. Using anonymised data from its connected purifiers, which amass over 1.9m globally, Dyson will also explore broader trends in indoor air pollution levels during this period.

Alex Knox, Vice President of Environmental Care at Dyson said:

“While it has been widely reported that air quality in some cities has improved during the lockdown period, initial data insights from Dyson’s connected purifiers* indicate a small but consistent increase in indoor NO2 and VOC levels in cities during lockdown. It will be interesting to monitor these changes as cities emerge from lockdown status, to further understand the factors that impact both indoor and outdoor air quality.”

The combined data sets will help to give an indication of the effect of lockdown on indoor and outdoor air pollution in cities globally, bolstered by findings from the pre-existing static outdoor air quality sensor network. Available outdoor air quality data from these sources indicate a reduction in NO2 levels in major cities under lockdown, possibly due to the decline in diesel vehicles on the roads as a result of the lockdown restrictions.

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