Tuesday, September 26

Examining the air from the mobile

The students this morning with the sensors and their mobile application / Jose Vicente Arnelas

A project of the UEx and Cesur tries to bring science closer to the citizen by giving several students a portable sensor for a week that analyzes the quality of the air in the environments where they move

J. Lopez-Lago

Just as centuries ago we made sure that the quality of the water is suitable for drinking, there is already a growing concern about the quality of the air we breathe. Charo Palomo, a professor at the University of Extremadura and at the Cesur vocational training center, says that in this region when the Atlantic wind blows it cleans the environment of particles, but if it comes from North Africa, and the most obvious example has been the Saharan dust from a few weeks ago, then the quality of the air drops to the point of seriously harming our health when we breathe.

All this has been discussed this morning at the Cesur facilities in Badajoz, where the students have learned how to know if the air has a higher or lower quality with some home experiments carried out by the UEx researchers Patricia Morcillo and Juan Jesús Hidalgo, the first on the presence of ozone and the second on the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). The originality of the project is based on the fact that ten of these students will carry with them for a week a small sensor that will inform them through a mobile application about the concentration of ozone and carbon dioxide in the environments through which they move, which will vary through five colors. Reaching orange or red translates into an alert that they are in an inadvisable place to travel, much less exercise. The device is designed for open places and will give clues about which avenues should not be frequented by people with asthma or breathing problems at certain times.

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It is true that Extremadura, with a mostly rural population and less population density, does not have the pollution problems of capitals such as Madrid, where nitrogen oxides caused by traffic often generate a worrying beret-shaped cloud that already forces to restrict traffic. In our region, however, we must bear in mind that in the months of greatest solar radiation, ozone is very present, which implies that no one escapes the effects of air whose quality worsens due to global warming.

Bringing science to the citizen

Juan Jesús Hidalgo is a researcher at the UEx belonging to the Comunicaire project. He studies Journalism and his intention is to do citizen science. “We are not aware of what happens in laboratories, where air quality is studied, although the important thing is that we become aware, hence this project to bring scientific information to ordinary citizens,” he explained this morning before carrying out a home experiment with several students to find out the concentration of ozone in the room.

As he said, air pollution causes one in nine deaths in the world and affects 80% of the urban population, endangering our climate and the health of people, who may suffer from cardiorespiratory or cerebrovascular diseases. In fact, the European Environment Agency (EEA) already issued a warning nine years ago about this health problem in which the most vulnerable are children and the elderly. “The problem is that air quality is almost never seen,” Hidalgo warned in his introduction prior to the experiments. In the UEx there are research groups such as Aquima or Aerouex that work in this field and contribute their data to the Repica network. To this end, the region currently has six meters that analyze air quality at six fixed points, five of them in towns and another in the Monfragüe Natural Park, in addition to two mobile ones. The cost of each of them is around 400,000 euros plus maintenance and the staff that manages them, which is why the study is limited.

Home experiment to measure air quality this morning in Cesur /

Joseph Vincent Arnelas

“There is a lot of talk about air quality – Hidalgo has stated – but we are only concerned when an episode of haze or covid arrives, when in reality we should always have access to this type of information.” To take a further step in raising awareness about air pollution, they have distributed some portable sensors designed in the UEx that fit in the palm of your hand and cost about 300 euros. With the information that these students collect with their small devices, they will be able to map Badajoz by establishing more or less healthy itineraries, even though it is a non-exhaustive experiment like the one that scientists would carry out, taking into account many more variables, such as temperature, among other parameters. , has clarified Charo Palomo, a professor at the UEx who also teaches the subject of hematology to students of the Clinical and Biomedical Laboratory cycle in Cesur and who has been researching air quality in Extremadura since 2003.


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