Mobile Air Quality Studies

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Mobile Air Quality Studies (MAQS) - an international project


Background

Air pollution is one of the major global problems [1]. It can be defined as the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere by natural or anthropogenic sources and displays one of the main issues in environmental medicine [2-4]. Anthropogenic air pollution commenced with human's systematic use of fire thousands of years ago. Today the major sources of anthropogenic air pollution are factory emissions, the burning of fuels and street traffic. In the later, especially exhaust gases and tire abrasion are a major problem. Currently, there is a major debate on the impact of these traffic-related pollutants on local air quality in the urban and also rural environment. Since polluted air can deteriorate conditions such as asthma, COPD or increase cardiovascular risks [1], most countries have strengthened laws to control the air quality in the past decade. Polluted air is considered as a super-regional problem. Therefore, international conferences have recently developed different ways to improve and assure air quality employing global strategic perspectives.
In striking contrast to the amount of research that is currently conducted in the field of health effects [1], only little is known on specific exposure situations.
Whereas there is a large amount of data available using stationary systems, only little is known about the practicability of mobile sensors in the assessment of air pollution.

To address this issue the authors of this protocol have decided to establish a platform for Mobile Air Quality Studies (MAQS). The present article describes the background and study protocol of this international project.
As primary mobile technology platform for MAQS convertible vehicles were chosen. They offer the advantage of assessing air quality in both static and mobile modes. Secondarily, bicycle, motor bicycle and pedestrian solutions will be developed.

Aims

  • 1. To assess air pollutant exposure in relation to urban and rural infrastructure,
  • 2. To assess air pollutant exposure in relation to road structure,
  • 3. To assess air pollutant exposure in relation to traffic density,
  • 4. To assess air pollutant exposure in relation to weather conditions and other outdoor air quality parameters,
  • 5. To assess air pollutant exposure in relation to vehicle air ventilation and air condition (different settings),
  • 6. To assess CO2 values in relation to particulate matter exposure,
  • 7. To compare exposure between front and back seat (children) positions
  • 8. To evaluate "traffic zone"- exposure in relation to non-"traffic zone"-exposure
  • 9. To generate recommendations concerning the use of the open vehicle position in relation to road structure
  • 10. To generate recommendations concerning the use of the open vehicle position in relation to traffic density with special regard to traffic congestion

Methods

Monitoring

As primary technology platform, convertible vehicles will be used. In a second step, bicycle, motor bicycle and pedestrian solutions will be developed.
Monitoring will be carried out using a convertible car in open and closed positions. Driving conditions will be standardised to represent typical urban behaviours for the different seasons of the year. Cars will be driven with either open or closed windows and convertible tops, with air-conditioning turned on or off and with varied settings of the ventilation system. Prior to the first analysis run on each route, the vehicles will be ventilated for at least 5 minutes with open doors. The routes will be chosen in different settings: "Traffic zone", motor way or suburban and other urban and rural settings including tunnels. Depending on traffic conditions, these will be analysed and categorized differently. Data will be averaged from replicates in order to provide estimates of exposure for a distinct situation. Also, timing of the analysis routes (which may include pre-defined intermediate waypoints or randomized routes) will be monitored by electronic watches which are synchronised against the different monitoring devices and GPS-systems. Also, wind speed will be measured once on each route, using anemometers (detection limit 0.1 m/s). The data can also be compared to meteorologic and emission outdoor air parameters. Referring to this, the Berlin Luftgütemessnetz (BLUME) may be used for studies in the German capital Berlin. The data is presented online by the Senatsverwaltung Berlin [5] and will be analysed and compared to the data recorded in the vehicle. Data analysis and comparison will be performed using a specifically computed software that integrates the vehicle analysis system measurements with the BLUME measurements [5].

In the vehicle, the analysers will be located on the back seats to simulate the weakest passenger possible in a car: a child. Other locations will be co-driver seats. Averaging time for measurements will range between 1 and 60 seconds, depending on the target parameter.

Public Access

A major target of MAQS is to provide public access to the measurements. Ideally, MAQS will be used to establish mobile sensing systems on a nation-wide and European scale. It may be used by governmental and non-governmental institutions for information. The analysed environmental exposure data will be connected to GPS data and presented in the internet.

Support

This project is supported by EUGT (research grant) and by Grimm Aerosol Technik (technical equipment).

References

1. Groneberg DA, Morfeld P, Kraus T, Kohler D, Krug N, Magnussen H, Nowak D, Rabe KF, Schultze-Werninghaus G, Schulz H, et al: [Health effects of particulate matter exposure: current scientific knowledge]. Pneumologie 2009, 63:363-368

2. Sierra-Vargas MP, Guzman-Grenfell AM, Blanco-Jimenez S, Sepulveda-Sanchez JD, Bernabe-Cabanillas RM, Cardenas-Gonzalez B, Ceballos G, Hicks JJ: Airborne particulate matter PM2.5 from Mexico City affects the generation of reactive oxygen species by blood neutrophils from asthmatics: an in vitro approach. J Occup Med Toxicol 2009, 4:17.

3. Groneberg DA, Witt C: [Air quality and particulate matter]. Pneumologie 2005, 59:607-611.

4. Just N, Duchaine C, Singh B: An aerobiological perspective of dust in cage-housed and floor-housed poultry operations. J Occup Med Toxicol 2009, 4:13.

5. Berlin State Department of Health, Environment and Consumer Protection [http://www.berlin.de/sen/umwelt/blume/doc/blume-5.htm]