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    Dyson air quality backpack being used in Thailand

    Dyson air sensing technology reveals the impact of Bangkok's seasonal haze on personal pollution exposure

    Dyson air pollution data recorded by digital creator, Pongsuk Hiranprueck, showed average personal exposure to PM2.5 to be up to nine times¹ worse during haze season. 

     

    From commuting to work and relaxing indoors, Bangkok-based digital creator and father Pongsuk Hiranprueck used Dyson’s prototype air quality backpack to track he and his family's personal air pollution exposure throughout the day.  

     

    Pongsuk is one of a group of volunteers globally who are working with Dyson to raise awareness about air pollution in cities across the world. This latest project is part of a sustained effort by Dyson to educate individuals about air quality and empower people to take control of their pollution exposure.

“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.”

- Alex Knox, Vice President of Environmental Care

 

Pongsuk wore the backpack from July to October 2020 (Phase 1) and again in January 2021 (Phase 2), repeating the same activities and routine in each phase to allow for a comparison of the two periods. In January 2021, the deterioration in air quality was visible, with haze shrouding Bangkok city.

 

“Bangkok experiences seasonal haze during the cooler months every year, and the pollution levels can be up to two times beyond² the safe levels prescribed by the World Health Organisation³ Being a father of two active girls who love to be outdoors, the importance of the air that my family takes in daily convinced me to be a part of the Dyson backpack project.”

Pongsuk Hiranprueck, digital creator and father 

  • Re-working existing sensing technology used in Dyson air purifiers, Dyson’s air quality backpack is a portable air sensing device that collects air pollution data on the move. With on-board sensors, a battery pack and GPS, Dyson hopes to use this sophisticated technology to offer insights into personal exposure to air pollution and how to avoid it.

     

    Dyson engineers analysed the findings by pairing the air sensor and GPS data from the backpack with Pongsuk’s diary entries, where he documented his activities and observations in the period wearing the air quality backpack. This allowed them to understand what may have caused the pollution and how Pongsuk might be able to lower his exposure in the future.

    Pongsuk’s Results

    PM2.5 levels were over nine times worse during haze season

     

    Compared to Phase 1, the pollution data collected in the Phase 2 haze period indicated a significant increase in Pongsuk’s personal exposure to PM2.5 levels, with average levels rising by up to nine times⁴. Bangkok frequently experiences higher particulate matter (PM) pollution levels in cooler winter months, potentially caused by several factors including vehicle pollution, weather, electricity generation, industrial emissions, and seasonal agricultural fires⁵.

     

    During this time, data collected from Pongsuk stepping out of the car before entering an office building caused PM2.5 levels to increase by up to 3.8 times⁶. This was likely caused by exposure to the city-wide pollution event while travelling outdoors.

     

    Pollution spikes from daily activities

     

    As well as this overarching seasonal pollution change, the air quality data indicated that daily activities further contributed to pollution spikes.

     

    Travelling by motorbike caused NO₂ levels to increase to up to 200 µg/m3, which was up to 50 times higher than before, registering as ‘extremely poor’ on Dyson’s air quality index. Engine combustion from vehicles can release NO2 pollution, likely contributing to this increase during that period.

     

    Moreover, while Pongsuk was driving his car, his exposure to PM2.5 and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) increased. PM2.5 can be emitted by brake and tyre wear, which individuals can be exposed to even if they are within the vehicle cabin.

    Indoor air pollution

     

    While air pollution is often associated with the outdoors, sources of pollution are also present within the home. During Pongsuk’s data collection, PM2.5 was identified while he was at home with his family. This could have been emitted during cooking activities, as combustion releases particulate matter into the air. The disturbance of dust caused by human movement or an open window letting in outdoor pollutants, may have also contributed to this increase.

     

    On one night when Pongsuk was sleeping, indoor pollution levels remained constant at 30 µg/m3 and did not drop. Over this 10-hour period, PM2.5 levels were up to two times higher⁷ than prescribed WHO safe levels⁸. As well-sealed homes can lead to pollutants being trapped indoors and lingering overnight, it is recommended to ventilate the home when the outdoor air quality is good. When outdoor air pollution is high, keeping windows and doors closed while operating an air purifier at home is advised.

     

    Dyson purifier data also revealed up to two times higher⁹ PM2.5 levels indoors during the haze period against the non-haze period. This rise in the overall particulate matter exposure measured in Bangkok homes corresponds with the air quality data recorded using Dyson’s prototype air quality backpack, indicating a shift in the air quality index from ‘good’ in Phase 1 to ‘fair’ in Phase 2.

     

     

“We are all aware that air pollution exists, but I believe that the data collected is key to helping visualise the difference in air quality between the two phases. By increasing the awareness of this problem in our everyday lives, we can make more informed decisions to reduce our exposure to air pollution.”

Pongsuk Hiranprueck, digital creator and father 

[1] Overall average PM2.5 levels recorded with the Dyson air quality backpack during the non-haze period (July-October 2021) was 3.1µg/m3 versus 30.1 µg/m3 during the haze period (January 2021).

[2] Highest overall mean PM2.5 level recorded with the Dyson air quality backpack during the haze period (January 2021) was 34.9 µg/m3.

[3] According to the latest WHO guidelines on the recommended daily average PM2.5 limit of 15 μg/m3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health

[4] Overall average PM2.5 levels recorded with the Dyson air quality backpack during the non-haze period (July-October 2021) was 3.1µg/m3 versus 30.1 µg/m3 during the haze period (January 2021).

[5] As reported by the Stockholm Environment Institute. https://cdn.sei.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/210212c-killeen-archer-air-quality-in-thailand-wp-2101e-final.pdf

[6] Average recorded PM2.5 levels in the car was 30 µg/m3 versus 115 µg/m3 outdoors before entering the office building.

[7] Average mean PM2.5 level recorded with the Dyson air quality backpack during Pongsuk’s sleeping time (January 2021) was 30 µg/m3.

[8] According to the latest WHO guidelines on the recommended daily average PM2.5 limit of 15 μg/m3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health

[9] Overall average PM2.5 levels recorded from over 4,200 connected Dyson purifiers in Bangkok homes during the non-haze period (July-October 2021) was 19.8 µg/m3 versus 41.1 µg/m3 during the haze period (January 2021).

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