Commenting on Dyson’s project, leading air quality and health expert, Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Population Health said, “We are often exposed to many different types of air pollution, such as heavy traffic pollution and smoke from bushfires. The health effects of different air pollutants can depend on the individual. However, certain groups may be particularly sensitive to the effects of air pollutants including young children, pregnant women and the one in nine Australians who suffer from respiratory health conditions such as asthma, hay fever or bronchitis. So, understanding air quality is extremely important to decrease one’s own exposure to pollution.”
An evening BBQ in Leah’s garden showed high levels of pollutants PM2.5 and NO2, likely caused by the combustion process during cooking which can emit fine particulate matter. NO2, a pollutant often associated with vehicle emissions, was also detected when Leah took a trip to the beach in the car with her family while using the backpack.
Meanwhile, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected when Leah was doing activities in the house such as using cosmetic products, doing laundry and spraying pesticides outdoors. VOCs is a collective term for thousands of different chemicals, many of which are found in common household items or products. Interestingly, while Leah was cleaning, levels of PM2.5 registered at higher concentrations, likely caused by the disturbance of household dust.
“Technology advancements in portable air quality monitoring devices is increasing and using these is critical for translating the research findings into better everyday practice to reduce air pollution, both to understand our personal exposure and what we generate as individuals. Education around the different types and source of air pollutants will help people adjust their behaviour – by taking actions such as avoiding busy highways, commuting to work differently, increasing ventilation when cooking, using more environmentally friendly cleaning products or using a purifier with a HEPA filter inside the home,” explained Professor Vardoulakis further.
This project is the most recent example of Dyson’s commitment to expanding people’s understanding of air pollution in the region and empowering them to make positive change. In February 2020, Dyson donated over $600,000 worth of purifiers and vacuums to bushfire-impacted Australian communities. Within three weeks, 400 Dyson Pure Cool purifying fans were distributed to 88 schools across the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in areas affected by bushfire smoke pollution. Dyson also hosts a national air quality initiative with Little Scientists Australia, a non-for-profit program for early childhood educators and teachers. To support the program, Dyson is donating 100 purifying fans to early learning centers in Australia.
Dyson is also using its air quality backpack to understand personal air quality exposure on a global scale, most recently to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on air quality globally. Participants in cities across the world have been wearing the backpack during essential travel in this period and the data findings will be released in October.
“Our engineers have developed intelligent sensors using knowledge derived from years of experience and research in air cleaning technology. Using our unique algorithm to process detailed reports of air pollution exposure, this innovative technology allows us to monitor air quality indoors, outdoors and on the move. What’s more, it all fits within a backpack,” says Alex Knox, Vice President of Environmental Care at Dyson.