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Environment & Climate Change

Scientists turn smartphones into pollution monitors

Mobile technology can help pinpoint when and where children are exposed to air pollution.
American Chemical Society

A team of researchers in Spain attached sensors to school age kids. Then, they used a smartphone to track how much air pollution (black carbon, a component of soot) they were exposed to at home and school in real time. The researchers did this work as part of a larger epidemiological study on air pollution and brain development.

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen is an author of the study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. He says the real time monitoring fills in gaps in data and gives a better picture of what the children are exposed to during the day.

He says they’re working to make this technology available to everyone.

“You could look at your smartphone and actually see what is the level of air pollution here where I’m going or when I take this route or the other route and you could make changes.”

But he says the sensors cost several thousand dollars, so it’ll be a while before it’s a reality.