How Coronavirus is Changing the Air Quality Conversation

How Coronavirus is Changing the Air Quality Conversation

Air quality has become an increasingly topical conversation for cities and citizens in response to emerging coronavirus research linking poor air quality to significantly poorer health outcomes for those experiencing the symptoms of Covid-19. We have been tracking the reported changes in air quality globally over the past six months and you can catch up on previous articles here.

As we talk more and more about air quality, now seems like a good time to remind people of the basics. The measurement of air quality is, at its simplest, the measurement of how clean or polluted the air really is. The monitoring of air quality is important for a myriad of reasons, chief among these is human health. Air pollution has been proven to cause and/or exacerbate ill-health for many people, particularly those with asthma, various lung and cardiovascular diseases and anyone over the age of 65 years.

Air quality in most countries around the world is measured by an Air Quality Index or AQI. In essence, the AQI works like a thermometer, however, instead of measuring temperatures, it measures levels of pollution. It is worth noting that different countries apply different measurement scales; for instance, the US index goes up to 500 whereas the Irish and UK ratings go from 1 to 10.

So, what is actually in the air? As most people will be aware, there are two essential gases that make up the majority of the earth's atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen. The AQI monitors five major pollutants in order to release the most accurate information to the population. These pollutants are as follows: ground level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and airborne particles/aerosols. Ground level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that cause the most threat to human life (based on US studies). These pollutants make up smog that severely reduces visibility.

Awareness of the link between air quality and health, particularly in the context of the coronavirus, has served to highlight the great work many cities (mainly smart cities), including Dublin, are doing to make air quality information accessible and easily understood by citizens and visitors. People can access important information about the quality of the air they are breathing in on a daily - and sometimes hourly - basis. Earlier this year Dublin City Council launched a new website, offering real time data on air quality locally:

The launch of this website followed Dublin City Council's commitment to the global BreatheLife campaign, which aims to improve air quality by 2030. The team here at Sonitus Systems are particularly proud to have been involved in the design, delivery and ongoing maintenance of these critical citizen information tools. The new website provides access to six stations set up by the local authority to monitor local air quality conditions, as well as the network of eight air quality monitoring stations operated by the local authority in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency that are part of the national air quality monitoring network. The noise monitoring hardware is manufactured and the network is maintained by Sonitus Systems. All of the local air quality stations are connected to the cloud using Sonitus Systems remote logging technology.

Sonitus Systems supply robust and reliable sound level monitoring equipment globally from their base in Dublin. Their award-winning products and services allow users to easily monitor and assess noise levels in any scenario to ensure compliance. For more information, call the Sonitus Systems team on +353 1 6778443 or email

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