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Mindful Droid: Vlog 8 - Q&A with an Atmospheric Scientist

I had the pleasure of discussing with Jim Mcquaid, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Composition, the importance of our approach to citizen science and data collection in measuring air pollution. The conversation touched on critical questions about the direction we are headed in and whether our efforts are truly effective in providing precise and accurate measurements. This is in reference to the Mindful Droid.

Here are the key takeaways from this insightful conversation.

The Role of Low-Cost Sensors:
One of the central topics discussed was the role of low-cost sensors in monitoring air quality. While these sensors are more accessible and budget-friendly, there was a consensus that they are not the definitive solution. Low-cost sensors can offer valuable indicative data, but they have limitations, particularly in comparison to high-end sensors used by official agencies. These limitations don't diminish their usefulness; they merely highlight the importance of understanding their boundaries.

Promoting Awareness and Conversation:
Despite their limitations, low-cost sensors have a unique advantage: they engage the public in discussions about air pollution. These sensors can act as conversation starters. They provide easily comprehensible data that doesn't require scientific expertise to interpret. People can grasp the significance of air quality when presented with intuitive information, such as traffic light symbols or smiley faces versus gas masks.

The Power of Mapping Data:
One compelling feature of low-cost sensors is their ability to create maps of air quality. Maps are universally understood and transcend language barriers. When air quality data is displayed on a map, individuals can quickly identify pollution hotspots in their communities. This visual representation encourages conversations about local pollution issues, leading to greater awareness and potential action.

Co-Benefits of Air Quality Improvement:
The discussion expanded to highlight the co-benefits of addressing air pollution. While much focus is placed on the immediate health impacts, such as respiratory problems, it's essential to recognize that air pollution also contributes significantly to climate change. Approximately 45-50% of greenhouse gases are also air pollutants. By tackling air pollution, we make strides toward a net-zero world, aligning with broader environmental goals.

Beyond Respiratory Issues:
Air pollution affects more than just respiratory health. Research has linked it to various health conditions, including dementia, diabetes, and even autism in children. The implications of air pollution extend far beyond what we commonly associate with it. It is a complex issue with far-reaching consequences for public health.

The Call to Action:
The conversation concluded with a call to action. The more we understand the multifaceted impacts of air pollution, the more imperative it becomes to address this issue collectively. Every individual can contribute by becoming aware, advocating for clean air policies, and supporting initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution.

In conclusion, this conversation did give me reassurance in my pursuit of creating awareness about air pollution and making people care. It highlighted the critical role that citizen science and accessible data play in raising awareness about air pollution. While low-cost sensors have their limitations, they serve as catalysts for discussions that ultimately drive positive change. It's not just about breathing difficulties; it's about safeguarding our health, our environment, and our future. 

Follow Michaels's weekly progress in developing the Mindful Droid.

Michael is an Industrial Design Engineer, Maker and winner of the Young Innovators Award 2021, with over 9 years experience working in various industry sectors. Having a problem solving background, he is always enthusiastic about finding solutions to problems that challenge everyday living. His key focus points are inclusivity, functionality with consciousness, and sustainability.