Did you find our first article on air pollutants interesting? Well, in this second part, we will continue to unravel the most important aspects that, in our opinion, you should know about this issue.
Our purpose, this time, is to show you the main sources of air pollution information or air quality available to you. We will also provide advice on how to take action when pollution levels are high and how to reduce exposure.
What sources of air pollution information can you consult?
There are many mobile applications and websites that provide information on air pollution and air quality. Try searching the internet with the terms “air quality (your location or place of interest)”.
Many of these informational resources use official data collected by air quality monitoring networks. However, when in doubt, Arantec recommends that you go directly to the official source. In this regard, you should know that the transmission and assessment of air quality information is a regional competency, as stated in Articles 5 and 8 of Law 34/2007, of November 15, on air quality and atmospheric protection (1).
Also, remember that if there are no available data for your location, you can always contact us and ask about our solutions for monitoring air quality on a hyperlocal level.
Local and regional information: What am I breathing in my city?
As mentioned earlier, in Spain, it is the autonomous communities that manage the air quality monitoring networks and provide the public with the data collected by these monitoring stations.
It is true that sometimes accessing this type of information can be a bit hidden and requires some searching, but they are public and open data that you have the right to consult. To make it easier for you, we have included a reference link to the Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO) in the reference list, where you can check the air quality for different autonomous communities (2). Similarly, if it’s more convenient for you, larger cities often include this type of information on their municipal websites.
It may also happen that you don’t understand what you are seeing on the screen. This is a problem that numerous studies have warned about: sometimes, the information provided by the authorities about air quality is not understandable (Beaumont, Hamilton, Machin, Perks & Williams, 1999).
In an effort to alleviate this situation, the National Air Quality Index (3) was approved in March 2019, aiming to reach a consensus on at least a single representation criterion, as each region had its own color code to display air quality.
National information: The viewer of the Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO)
Another source of information you can consult to learn about air quality is the MITECO website.
From there, you can access the air quality viewer (4), which compiles all the information from official stations scattered throughout the country. The data is provisional and subject to revision, and it is not real-time, but it can give you a fairly accurate idea of the situation. However, if you have never used a map viewer before or are not adept at adding layers of information, you may find this resource difficult to navigate (our mobile application, on the other hand, is much easier to understand).
European Information: the European Environment Agency and the Copernicus program
Unlike the information resource from MITECO, the air quality viewer from the European Environment Agency (5), although in English, is possibly easier to navigate and consult.
The data displayed by this viewer is calculated for each hour based on information transmitted by EU member states. Similar to the previous case, the values are not verified.
Another interesting source of information, also in English, is provided by the Copernicus program, which monitors air quality in the EU through the Sentinel satellites orbiting the Earth. The data collected by these systems can be accessed through a specific viewer that displays information on ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, PM10, PM2.5, various types of pollen, and peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN).
What can I do when air pollution levels are high?
The majority of the information resources we have referenced do not provide air quality forecasts. However, technologies such as artificial intelligence are allowing for increasingly accurate 24-48 hour forecasts. Therefore, our first recommendation from Arantec is to stay tuned to official alerts. This way, you will also know if any traffic restrictions are put in place that may affect your regular commutes (in such cases, it is best to use public transportation).
Other tips that you can implement to reduce your exposure to pollution are:
- Check the air quality information and try to avoid areas with high traffic density. For example, stay away from the road when at pedestrian crossings.
- Avoid intense physical exercise, especially outdoors.
- Replace contact lenses with glasses, as suspended particles can increase the risk of eye irritation when wearing contact lenses.
- Stay hydrated to keep your eyes moist with tears.
- Seek medical attention if you experience discomfort (especially if you are part of a high-risk group).
- If using air conditioning, set it to recirculation mode to prevent outdoor pollution from entering.
Now that you have a better understanding of the air pollution problem, we believe you are better prepared to fight against this issue that threatens to become a true nightmare.
As Sun Tzu says in “The Art of War,” “know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated.” At Arantec, we are ready to confront air pollution by making it visible through our measurement devices. Will you join us on the front lines?
- (1) España. Ley 34/2007, de 15 de noviembre, de calidad del aire y protección de la atmósfera. Boletín Oficial del Estado, 16 de noviembre de 2007, núm. 275, pp. 46962 a 46987. https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2007/11/16/pdfs/A46962-46987.pdf
- (2) MITECO. Redes de vigilancia de la calidad del aire. https://www.miteco.gob.es/es/calidad-y-evaluacion-ambiental/temas/atmosfera-y-calidad-del-aire/calidad-del-aire/evaluacion-datos/redes/default.aspx
- (3) España. Orden TEC/351/2019, de 18 de marzo, por la que se aprueba el Índice Nacional de Calidad del Aire. Boletín Oficial del Estado, 28 de marzo de 2019, núm. 75, pp. 31880 a 31884. https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2019/03/28/pdfs/BOE-A-2019-4494.pdf
- (4) MITECO. Visor de calidad del aire. https://sig.mapama.gob.es/calidad-aire/
- (5) Agencia Europea de Medio Ambiente. Air quality index (visor de calidad del aire). https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/air/air-quality-index/index
- (6) Programa Copérnico. Visor de calidad del aire. https://www.regional.atmosphere.copernicus.eu/
- Beaumont, R., Hamilton, R., Machin, N., Perks, J., & Williams, I. (1999). Social awareness of air quality information. Science Of The Total Environment, 235(1-3), 319-329. doi: 10.1016/S0048-9697(99)00215-6