Keeping a watch on air pollution

Spartan engineers are leading an all-Michigan effort to create wearable devices that monitor exposure to dangerous particle pollutants

Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year, according to new air quality guidelines recently published by the World Health Organization. That’s roughly one in nine deaths globally.

But except in extreme cases such as wildfires that can spread smoke hundreds of miles, air quality is easily overlooked. Many of the pollutants that affect hearts, lungs and brains are invisible. And current technologies that monitor air pollution can take weeks to collect and process data.

“That’s helpful for epidemiological studies, but it doesn’t tell you what’s going on today,” said Andrew Mason, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in Michigan State University’s College of Engineering. Teaming up with researchers at Oakland University and the University of Michigan, Mason’s lab is working to empower individuals to better protect themselves and their communities from air pollution in real time. With the support of a $2.78 million grant, the team is creating wearable devices that can track exposure to pollutants and help people steer clear of pollution. The grant is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Full MSU Today story by Matt Davenport