Air pollution caused drastic effects not only to the environment but also to human health. Recently, it has become one of the world's biggest public health issues with many countries reporting toxic levels of fumes.

Measuring toxic fumes in the air are often performed by experts and it requires the use of high-quality and costly equipment. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced that it developed a small, high-precision air-quality sensor. This is the first of its kind to detect all fine particles, even those which are very small to assess.

The new device, which can measure fine air particles no more than 2.5 µm in diameter or PM2.5, can accurately measure the density or particles as well as other pollutants such as dust and pollen. PM2.5 generates scattered light and this is measured by the device's double-sided mirror design. It can collect about 1.8 times more scattered light than traditional single-sided designs.

The company's original shape-discrimination algorithm distinguishes between pollen and dust based on their differences in optical characteristics in the generated scattered light.

Particle pollution or particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. When these particles are smaller than 2.5 µm in diameter, may pose serious health problems such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

With their small size, they can be inhaled and they can travel deeply into the respiratory tract. Exposure to fine particles can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and the lungs. For people suffering from an already diagnosed lung condition like bronchial asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inhalation of fine particles may aggravate the condition.

Past studies have linked air pollution to a variety of diseases. One particular study suggests that more than 3 million premature deaths around the world every year occur due to air pollution. By the year 2050, the figure could increase two fold.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 88 percent of the premature deaths caused by air pollution occurred in low-and middle-income countries mostly in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions. The health agency added that 80 percent of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were caused by ischemic heart disease and strokes. About 14 percent of deaths were due to COPD or infections in the lower respiratory tract and 6 percent were due to lung cancer.

Photo: Simone Ramella | Flickr 

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