Image: Plume Labs
Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year, according to the World Health Organization.
A new app and interactive website called Plume Air Report hopes to help change that by giving users real-time updates about the air quality in their city, as well as tips for surviving and thriving in their area. Billing itself as an “urban weather forecast to beat air pollution,” Plume Labs’ Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning algorithms forecast the hourly evolution of air pollution levels over 24 hours. It then offers actionable advice to beat air pollution and plan one’s day around it.
Already available in over 150 cities, Plume uses an index system (from 0 to 150+) to rate a city’s air quality for that day. It categorizes the city’s pollution levels as “fresh air,” “moderate,” “high,” “very high,” or “extreme.”
Plume’s reporting shows that New Yorkers usually face a “moderate” amount of air pollution, slightly above World Health Organization recommendations, but not a immediate health threat. The yearly average index is 28 (out of 150+), indicating outdoor activity, including leisure and exercise, are just fine for adults, children and infants. The highest-occurring pollutant is ozone.
Not surprisingly, coastal cities tend to have the cleanest air. Sapporo, Japan is consistently labeled as “fresh,” with a yearly average index of just 13.
By contrast, Zhengzhou, China indexes at a yearly average of 102 — a number that the World Health Organization labels “critical.” Residents are advised to stay indoors — or even leave the affected area. The highest occurring pollutant is particulate matter.
Plume notes that air pollution is the world’s leading environmental health hazard, killing 7 million people every year. It also “engenders massive healthcare costs.” In the United States, 1 in 12 adults suffer from asthma, at a cost of $56 billion per year. Their goal is to educate people about the long-term and short-term effects of air pollution and help protect people until systemic solutions can be found.