Air Pollution

Air pollution is a fundamental problem for humans, animals and plants.  


For humans on planet Earth the World Health Organization has estimated that almost 8 million people die from ambient and indoor  air pollution related symptoms each year. Worldwide, poor air quality is responsible for almost as many deaths as cancer and an order of magnitude more deaths than HIV and malaria combined.  

In East Asia and the Pacific alone, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 billion people - almost a quarter of the world population is breathing unsafe air each day.  Particulate pollution is linked to heart disease, some cancers, early death and exacerbates respiratory epidemics such as Covid19 .    Children, the elderly and the sick are especially vulnerable. 

AirSpeQ's prosumer grade performance sensor is the missing component that will enable the adoption of systems that will save millions of lives every year. Existing air pollution monitors are designed to address superficial, visual and olfactory symptoms of air pollution. AirSpeQ's sensor instead targets the fine and ultra fine particulate matter that is especially toxic as it not only penetrates the lungs but also the circulatory and nervous systems and directly reaches the brain.  Fine particles (PM2.5) easily find their way into lung alveoli, and ultrafine particles (PM0.1) pass through the alveolar- capillary membrane, are readily picked up by cells, and carried via the bloodstream to expose virtually all cells in the body. Smaller particles, therefore, have greater systemic toxicity. (Read the study: Part 1, Part 2)

At the World Health Organization Air Pollution Conference in Geneva in 2018, Dr. Arvind Kumar from New Delhi, India showed pictures of what air pollution damage to the lungs looks like.  As he noted when he first started working as a surgeon thirty years ago, lungs like these belonged to fifty year old men who had smoked for thirty plus years.  Now he finds these same lung symptoms in teenagers who have lived their entire lives in New Delhi and have never smoked.

Recently Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 3,000 counties with confirmed coronavirus deaths around the United States. They found a statistical link between long-term exposure to PM 2.5 and higher death rates from the disease caused by coronavirus. 

Air Pollution, Astronauts & the coming Space Force

Working alongside NASA, we are all learning about the needs of humans and astronauts in space whether on the International Space Station (ISS), future planned missions to Mars or other planets or the coming Space Force. To continue to monitor and improve these extra-terrestrial habitats, sensors that are small, reliable and require minimal to no maintenance are of great interest.

Air Pollution and Animals

Animal and wildlife health is also impacted by particulate matter in similar ways to human health including harming the lungs and cardiovascular systems. An animal's vulnerability to air pollution is influenced by how it breathes - whether it uses lungs, gills or some other form of gas exchange, such as passive diffusion across the surface of the skin.  Further air pollutants that enter the food chain damage the supply and quality of food.

Air Pollution and Plants (Agriculture)

Particulate matter disrupts photosynthesis and growth in plants, trees and crops  globally.  Estimated crop losses are 7-12% for wheat, 6-16% for soybean and around 4% for rice and maize.  Particulate matter effectively reduces European crop yields by around 2 % but the impact in India is thought to be closer to 28%.  Tree growth damage also reduces the rate at which trees absorb carbon dioxide.

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