Advanced instrumentation and information technology may allow gauging the health risks of air pollution on an individual level, researchers have revealed in a recent study. Globally, 4.2 million deaths per year are attributable to airborne pollution, making it the fifth-ranking mortality risk factor according to the study published in the Journal of Nature Communications.
The paper also explains how data gleaned from environmental sensors and mounted on buildings, lamp poles, as well as mobile and wearable sensors.
These were combined with information on socioeconomic status, commuting patterns, and lifestyle habits such as outdoor exercise to develop models of pollution exposures at the neighbourhood level.
The authors argue that advanced sensing and information technologies can be used to even greater advantage, offering the potential for far more granular assessments at the level of the individual.
"One of the questions we want to answer is how different people experience pollution, and why?" researcher Ghandehari said. He explained that population-level assessments overlook factors such as personal mobility including commuting by car, bus, bicycle, or on foot, and often do not consider indoor climate control conditions or life stage.
For example, students and working adults are more mobile than older people and are therefore more exposed, while children experience lifelong adversities. Socioeconomic status is also a known factor for increased exposure to airborne pollutants as well as an increased risk of asthma and cardiovascular disease.
"People from all points on the economic spectrum live in polluted areas, yet they often have different health outcomes. Using technology to study individual associations between air pollution and health outcomes, rather than group associations will yield evidence-based arguments for change that would particularly impact individuals at higher risk of negative health impacts," Ghandehari said.