Long-range sensors extend reach of air quality monitoring
in South Pacific project

26 July 2019

A CAR research project that is piloting low-cost sensors (‘KOALAs’) to monitor local air quality in Pacific Island countries is collaborating with the University of Oxford and UNSW to monitor regional sources of airborne particulates.

CAR investigators Professor Lidia Morawska and Dr Tom Cole-Hunter, from QUT, are collaborating with Dr Andrew Dansie (UNSW, University of Oxford) to employ fine particulate matter monitors (DustTraks) alongside the KOALAs to collect air quality information in Suva, Fiji, and Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The DustTraks are provided in partnership by the University of Oxford and UNSW and erected with the assistance of the Fijian National University and the Fijian Meteorological Service. These monitors collect high-resolution airborne particulate data and help identify long-range transportation of particulates and/or pollutants and their effect on local levels.

The CAR project is investigating the impact of air pollution on the health of young children in Fiji and how to minimise this impact. The project also involves local collaborators Dr Amelia Turagabeci and Dr Donald Wilson at Fiji National University and Mr Jimmy Hilly at the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Dr Dansie, Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian Engineering at UNSW and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Oxford, said the DustTrak monitors would “support the first empirical insights into regional fluctuations of air quality and contribution of far-away sources of particulates to the South Pacific”.

Professor Morawska said the DustTrak monitors would provide inter-comparable data on air pollution, “complementing and allowing evaluation of our KOALAs before greater numbers are deployed to make a meaningful area-wide network”.

Mr Jone Gucake of Fijian National University (FNU), 
Mr Jimmy Hilly of SI Ministry of Health and FNU and 
Dr Andrew Dansie of UNSW/University of Oxford ... with a DustTrak in the background.

“Currently, no regulatory monitoring exists in these countries, and so our KOALAs may fill a crucial knowledge gap,” Professor Morawska said.

Air pollution is known as the biggest environmental contributor to early death and disease worldwide. It is determined by the way that energy is obtained – for example, combusting solid fuels inside households for cooking and combusting fossil fuels for transport and industry.

The Western Pacific region, which includes Australia and its Pacific Island neighbours, is over-burdened by air pollution – the region has a quarter of the world’s population but one third of global deaths attributed to air pollution.

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