Air monitoring will be an $8.33 billion industry by 2028

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The market size for air quality monitoring systems was $5.02 billion in 2021 and is expected to increase to $8.33 billion by 2028, predicts Fortune Business Insights. The major factors driving the market are growing awareness among consumers, stringent air quality monitoring and control regulations, and increasing awareness among the common mass to mitigate health risks. 

Key players in the market focus on providing solutions used to measure specific pollutants, also known as “criteria air pollutants”, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrous oxide present in the air. Among other things, these pollutants make the air we breathe a public health problem.

The burning of gas, coal and oil results in three times more deaths than traffic accidents worldwide. In 2020, a study by Green Peace calculated the economic cost of air pollution: $2.9 trillion, which was equivalent to 3.3% of world GDP at the time.

More than 250 children in the five schools were given wearable sensors to carry to and from school for a period of five school days. Throughout the project, the children also became ‘scientists’ by helping to measure air pollution using special backpacks with state-of-the-art air quality sensors. In addition, the researchers installed sensors in vehicles, lampposts, and buildings.

IoT makes solutions more accessible

Among the benefits offered by the technology are:

  • Greater Coverage. IoT solutions allow you to measure quality across vast expanses, without additional staff-related cost or measurement overheads.

  • Reduced cost. IoT air quality and pollution sensors are cost-effective alternatives to fixed stations and can be part of any holistic environmental management solution.

  • Better identification of pollution hotspots and problem areas. With wide coverage, the system can identify anomalies or pollution outbreaks that may warrant further investigation.

  • Possibility to better shape policy and decision making. Data arm decisions and policy makers. City planners, population health, education leaders and transport managers can use air quality data to shape and develop policy and influence decision making.

  • Better outcomes. Poor air quality and pollution levels have been associated with various health conditions and life expectancy. Measuring air quality is the first part of the solution.

  • Greater transparency. Many agencies choose to publicly share air quality information with their residents and businesses. This promotes transparency and garners people’s support to support positive environmental change and help tackle the climate issue.

When the recommended practices for planning, deployment, and maintenance of these devices are followed, low-cost monitoring networks can be used effectively to fill the air quality monitoring gaps that exist in urban environments and paint a more complete picture of air quality, providing the data points that are desperately needed to protect human health in increasingly populated and polluted areas.

Internal monitoring

Indoor monitoring solutions are also expected to witness significant demand growth, owing to the increasing popularity of smart homes/green buildings, primarily. Technological advancements in the field of air pollution monitoring and the continuous expansion of petrochemical and power generation industries will also create opportunities for the market.

We spend up to 90% of our time indoors. Unlike outside air, indoor air tends to be continuously recycled, causing it to trap pollutants and allowing them to accumulate in these confined spaces. 

Indoor air quality (IAQ) broadly refers to the environmental characteristics within buildings that may affect human health, comfort or work performance. These IAQ characteristics include concentrations of pollutants in indoor air, as well as temperature and humidity. 

Effective IAQ measurement reduces the health risks associated with poor indoor air, creating a safer and more harmonious environment for people to thrive.

Typical symptoms associated with poor indoor air quality include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. In some cases, exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to acute and chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, systemic hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Legionnaires’ disease, and humidifier fever. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has brought IAQ Monitoring to center stage as it plays a crucial role in minimizing viral transmission in schools, offices, and restaurants. In addition to enacting the behavioral change of social distancing, building owners and operators need to leverage a range of tools and strategies to optimize building operational performance to give their tenants confidence in returning to the workplace safely. Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) can be as effective in reducing aerosol virus transmission as vaccinating 50-60% of the population, according to scientific research. 

By effectively monitoring indoor air quality, employers can ensure that workers enjoy healthier spaces with cleaner air, free of potentially harmful chemicals and pollutants. As a result, the increase retention and productivity levels and reduce absenteeism.

Common sources of poor indoor air quality include poorly maintained HVAC systems, wood and coal cookers, unvented gas heaters, environmental tobacco smoke, and vehicle exhaust emissions. When designing or managing a building, it is important to look at things like materials used in construction, carpeting, furniture, and choice of solvents or cleaning products. Inadequate ventilation is particularly crucial, as poorly ventilated spaces (along with environmental factors such as temperature and humidity) can amplify the concentration of pollutants.

Accurate indoor air quality monitoring alerts residents and building owners to the level and nature of pollution, enabling remedial action to be taken. 

Some typical applications for indoor air quality monitoring include:

  • Investigation and analysis of IAQ complaints
  • HVAC performance monitoring
  • Air quality engineering analysis
  • Investigation and correction of mould
  • Health and comfort assessment

Breathable gas and particles in the air are the main sources contributing to poor indoor air quality. Let’s see:

  • Pollutant: Carbon Dioxide

  • Sensor : CO2

  • Main sources: Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), Excessive Building Occupancy, and Inadequate Ventilation
  • Potential health effects: Fatigue; Irritation of eyes, nose and throat; Headache; Chest discomfort; Respiratory tract symptoms
  • Pollutant: Carbon Monoxide

  • Sensor: CO
  • Main sources: non-ventilated or faulty gas appliances, wood and coal burning cookers, tobacco smoke, and vehicle exhaust emissions
  • Potential health effects: headache, nausea, angina, impaired vision and mental functioning, fatal at high concentrations
  • Pollutant: Environmental Tobacco Smoke

  • Sensor: COPM
  • Main sources: Cigarettes, cigars and pipes
  • Potential Health Effects: Respiratory Irritation, Bronchitis and Pneumonia in Children; Emphysema, Lung Cancer and Heart Disease
  • Pollutant: Organic Chemicals

  • Sensor: VOC
  • Main sources: aerosol sprays, solvents, glues, cleaning agents, pesticides, paints, moth repellents, air fresheners, dry cleaners, and treated water
  • Potential health effects: Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; Headache; Loss of coordination; Liver, kidney, and brain damage; Various types of cancer
  • Pollutant: Ozone

  • Sensor: O 3

  • Main sources: Ground-level ozone entering indoor environments; Malfunctioning air treatment systems; and office copiers and printers
  • Potential health effects: Irritation of eyes, nose and throat; Cough; Chest discomfort; Reduced lung function; Shortness of breath
  • Pollutant: Nitrogen Oxides

  • Sensor: NO 2

  • Main sources: non-ventilated or malfunctioning, gas appliances, and vehicle exhaust emissions
  • Potential health effects: Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; Increase in respiratory infections in children
  • Pollutant: TSP (total suspended particles) PM 10 (thoracic fraction ≤ 10 μm) PM 2,5 (respirable fraction ≤ 2,5 μm) PM 1 (particles ≤ 1,0 μm)

  • Sensor: PM
  • Main sources: Cigarettes, wood and coal cookers, fireplaces, aerosols, and household dust
  • Potential health effects: Irritation to eyes, nose and throat; Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and bronchitis; Lung cancer
  • Pollutant: Formaldehyde

  • Sensor: CHCO
  • Main sources: Pressed wood products, e.g. plywood and MDF; Furniture; Wallpaper; Durable press fabrics
  • Potential health effects: Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; Headache; Allergic reactions; Cancer

The main sources and potential health effects of indoor air pollutants include:

  • Pollutant: Biological agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, animal dander, dust mites)

  • Main Sources: Household Dust; Pets; Bedding; Poorly maintained air conditioners, humidifiers and dehumidifiers; Wet or damp structures; Furniture
  • Potential health effects: Allergic reactions; Asthma; Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; Dampness, flu, and other infectious diseases
  • Pollutant: Asbestos

  • Main sources: Damaged or deteriorating insulation, fireproofing, and acoustic materials
  • Potential health effects: asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers
  • Pollutant: Lead

  • Main Sources: Sanding or Open Flame Burning of Lead Paint; Household Dust
  • Potential health effects: nerve and brain damage, particularly in children; anaemia; kidney damage; growth retardation
  • Pollutant: Radon

  • Main sources: soil under buildings, some earth-derived constructions, materials, and groundwater
  • Potential health effects: lung cancer

As a result of increased awareness of the risks of poor indoor air quality, governments around the world have been tightening standards and requiring building owners to monitor indoor air quality. To this point, increased standards have applied to public places and office buildings, although this may extend to newly constructed residential buildings in the future. 

Recognizing the need to promote healthy indoor air, international green building organizations have developed standards such as WELL and LEED. These standards serve as a benchmark for builders and owners of buildings, residential, commercial (including offices, shopping malls, schools, airports, hospitals, etc.), and industrial, creating a framework to ensure healthier outcomes and sustainable designs.

There are two main methods for assessing indoor air quality:

  • Real-time (continuous) measurements. Real-time monitors can be used for the detection of pollutant sources, providing information on the variation of pollutant levels throughout the day.

  • Integrated sampling with subsequent laboratory analysis. Integrated samples, normally taken during the 8-hour office working day, can provide information on the total level of exposure for a given pollutant.

Both are greatly facilitated by the installation of IoT sensors. Which explains why, in many places, the LoRaWAN standard has become the preferred infrastructure for IAQ monitoring.

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