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Sherrell Dorsey headshot

This Wearable Device Helps You Ditch Air Pollution

By Sherrell Dorsey

A study conducted by the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 7 million people die prematurely from harmful air pollution each year. Nearly 200,000 of these deaths occur in the U.S. alone. As an increasingly volatile environmental health issue, poor air quality is a problem affecting nearly 25 percent of the world’s population.

One band of entrepreneurs and scientists plan to help individuals fight back with data-tracking technology that fits comfortably on your backpack. TZOA — an advanced enviro-tracker — uses internal sensors to measure air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV exposure in a small, wearable device.

TZOA connects to a smartphone app that gives users pertinent information monitoring on air quality within their geographic location while providing actionable recommendations for improving air quality at home, such as: opening a window for better air circulation; encouraging sun exposure during the winter seasons; and selecting a “less polluted” route to activities.

“The ability to monitoring air quality is important for the management of allergies as well as understanding and mitigating the health risks associated with airborne pollution,” said Kevin R. Hart, TZOA co-founder and CEO.

“As wearable tech and big data come together, TZOA is creating ‘citizen scientists’ to help affect social change. By letting people “see the air” we are educating them to become motivated to take personal actions that improves their environment. As we have seen with the water conservation movement, this in turn raises wider awareness and builds advocates to push for wider social change to combat this growing public health issue.”

The “citizen science” tool feeds directly to a crowdsourced map of real-time environmental data, providing critical information for both the general public and public healthcare providers to build effective, data-driven intervention strategies.

“Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly,” said Dr, Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director-general for family, women and children’s health, in a news release. “Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.”

Still in its beta-testing phase, TZOA can detect particulate matter (the allowable amount of hazardous particles in the air) PM10, which indicate particles such as pollen, dust, asbestos and mold. It also detects PM2.5 particles that are finer and can embed in lungs and pass into the bloodstream.

Key facts about the TZOA device:

  • The tracker features research-grade sensors to track air quality and a range of environmental indicators such as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV sun exposure.

  • Miniaturized fans suck air into the device and which then passes through tiny laser based optical sensors that use light scattering technology and advanced algorithms to count and size particulate matter (PM).

  • Data is sent to the TZOA app that provides real-time and historical stats as well as actionable steps they can take to improve air quality.

This wearable technology and the massive data-mapping it seeks to cultivate could potentially impact sustainable measures and practices to help reverse the narrative of air quality related deaths for the most vulnerable people around the world.

While creative, innovative and arguably necessary, the high-tech solution begs the question as to whether it will directly benefit those that will need it the most and may not have smartphones or the funds to purchase the device (slated to sell for $99).

Image credit: TZOA

Sherrell Dorsey headshot

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

Read more stories by Sherrell Dorsey