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加州野火不斷,令這款產品熱賣

Jennifer Alsever 2019年11月11日

在這個污染愈發嚴重的世界,這類微觀環境監控設備可能對健康和生存來說至關重要。

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隨著火災肆虐加州,灣區的居民收到了留在室內的公共警告。原因是來自于金卡德火災(Kincade Fire)的煙塵讓室外空氣成為了不宜呼吸的有害氣體。這些煙塵滿是顆粒物,可能會停留在人們的肺中,引發各類呼吸道病癥,尤其是歲數較小的兒童。

確實,加州火災以及肆虐全球各地的火災(包括巴西、阿拉斯加和西伯利亞)所引發的空氣質量惡化,正在威脅人類的健康。過去10年,醫療研究證實了空氣質量惡化與心臟病、哮喘和早逝等健康問題之間存在關聯。與此同時,哈佛、耶魯、哥倫比亞、加州大學以及世界銀行和貝恩咨詢公司所開展的研究甚至得出了一個結論:高污染會導致工作業績和生產力的下降,以及病假的增多。

人們也越發意識到空氣污染對健康的威脅,因此各種科技和裝置應運而生。AirVisual、Airmon、Awair、Huma-i、Temtop、Atmotube和Flow等品牌推出了一批300美元不到的小型便攜式檢測裝置,它們可以讓消費者隨時了解其呼吸的空氣質量,可以用于監測日常通行環境中的污染物,或發現晨跑時的野火煙霧。與智能手機上提供城市或大面積區域基本空氣質量監測數據的應用相比,它的不同之處在于能夠對用戶具體所在位置的空氣質量進行測量,既可以是鄰近的街區,也可以是室內。

這些設備的尺寸從鹽瓶到大號智能手機不等,這些低成本空氣質量檢測儀擁有眾多功能。例如,260美元的IQAir只有一本小號平裝書的大小,配備了一個全面屏,能夠顯示當前環境、天氣預報以及如何規避空氣污染的建議(例如在室外戴口罩或在室內開啟空氣凈化器)。與此同時,179美元的Flow檢測儀只有6英寸高,重量11盎司,能夠測量顆粒物質、一氧化二氮和揮發性的有機化合物。它的設計初衷就是掛在衣服或背包上,這樣便可以將信息通過藍牙傳給手機應用程序。

在這個污染愈發嚴重的世界,這類微觀環境監控設備可能對健康和生存來說至關重要。環境保衛基金(Environmental Defense Fund)的一項新研究發現,某個街區的空氣污染程度可能要比另一個街區高8倍。在獲得這一結論之前,調查組駕駛著搭載有小型空氣質量監測器的車輛穿越了奧克蘭、倫敦和休斯頓。另一個對校車的調查顯示,車內空氣質量有時候比車外更糟糕。主導EDF研究的阿琳·諾蘭說:“空氣污染的外在形式與人們預期的并不一樣。”

煙和鏡子?

在去年野火火災期間,加州開始搶購這些新空氣質量檢測儀,來評估他們所采取的行動是否足以降低顆粒物水平,例如關閉窗戶或開啟空氣過濾器。勞倫斯·伯克利國家實驗室的科學家布雷特·辛格說:“對于檢驗自己行動的有效性來說,這個方法非常實用。我們是這些設備忠實的粉絲。”

辛格說,在某些情況下,低成本設備的功能不比1.5萬至2萬美元的專業設備差。但在其他情形中,它們的可靠性和精度還是趕不上監管方使用的工具。他建議,為了確保測量結果的準確度,應將這些低價設備的結果與官方監測站的結果進行對比,前提是附近有監測站的話。

正是因為加州目前正在蔓延的大火,去年在Indigogo眾籌網站上成立的舊金山初創企業Atmotube在10月的銷售量翻了一番,其空氣質量監測器的價格從99美元至179美元不等。通過藍牙連接至用戶智能手機的Atmotube設備能夠為用戶實時提供揮發性有機化合物、顆粒物質、溫度、濕度和氣壓數據。

Atmotube還發現,巴西的訂單也有所增長。在此之前,世界衛生組織于9月向居住在朗多尼亞州6442起火災周邊的3000萬民眾發布了一則健康預警。有毒煙云甚至漂到了1800英里之外的圣保羅,而且還抵達了熱帶城市波多韋柳,而病患們則因為呼吸問題而蜂擁至衛生中心。

Atmotube的首席營銷官達利亞·查吉娜說:“看到產品需求在野火季出現增長是一件令人痛心的事情。我們看到一個趨勢,人們終于開始考慮吸入污染空氣的影響,以及自己如何控制空氣污染。”

新污染

有煙的地方就有火。然而,盡管沒有煙,空氣中也可能存在顆粒物(PM),它是一種越來越常見的空氣污染物。大多數對顆粒物的擔憂集中于汽車尾氣以及加熱油、木頭和煤炭所釋放的微粒和液滴。在沒有風的炎熱白天或時期,暴露于這些顆粒物當中可能會引發鼻子、喉嚨和肺部的不適。它對哮喘、肺氣腫、慢性阻塞性肺病以及心臟病患者的影響尤為明顯。

顆粒物并非僅僅是一個用來博眼球的宣傳語,而是一種能夠威脅健康的污染趨勢,并在不斷惡化。過去10年中的多項研究發現,長期暴露于顆粒物環境與早逝存在關聯,大多是由心血管疾病的惡化引發。世界衛生組織估計,每年約有370萬人死于因室外污染引發的健康狀況惡化,包括加重的缺血性心臟病、中風、慢性阻塞性肺病、肺癌和兒童急性呼吸道感染。

美國肺臟協會(American Lung Association)的《空氣狀況報告》稱,2015年至2017年間,與2014年至2016年相比,美國日間出現高臭氧現象和短期顆粒物污染的城市越來越多。今年,歐盟甚至不惜采取法律措施來制約包括英國和德國這些通過污染限制標準的國家。

個人空氣質量檢測儀制造商表示,他們希望,人們在更好地了解暴露于顆粒物環境的危害之后,將采取行動來改變其生活,從而保護自身的健康。這可能意味著進行一些小調整,例如改變上班的路線或在室外跑步的路線。但這可能也意味著推動其社區做出更大的改變。

例如在倫敦,國王學院(King’s College)通過分析學校兒童背包上的空氣質量檢測儀的數據發現,孩子們上學路上的一氧化二氮濃度是學校中的5倍。倫敦的父母也用設備來測量污染,迫使政府當局將上、下車道的位置設置為非逗留區域,并組建了步行巴士,從而讓孩子們沿著特定的路線步行上學,以規避汽車尾氣。

人們在使用這些設備之后看到當地或國家的空氣質量發生了整體性的改變,因為他們可以將其實時測量的數據上傳至眾包網站,例如PurpleAir Network和AirVisual。這些應用程序能夠讓人們自動上傳其數據,并繪制全球和所在區域的實時空氣質量圖。辛格說,隨著越來越多的人在線分享其數據,污染地圖會變得越來越清晰。

在去年的加州火災期間,PurpleAir Network的網站訪問量激增了100倍。PurpleAir的創始人阿德里安·迪布瓦德說:“人們將它看作是天氣預報,會依此來決定帶孩子上哪玩,上哪去郊游或騎自行車。”

正是受利用信息為個人賦能愿景的啟發,Plume Labs的首席執行官羅曼·拉科布開發了其公司的空氣質量檢測儀Flow。

例如,拉科布指出,空氣質量檢測儀曾經協助法國南部城市土倫的居民發起了一項行動,迫使該市將繁忙的運輸港電動化。長期以來,人們懷疑運輸港是空氣污染的來源。今年早些時候,市民們搜集了空氣質量數據,并將結果公之于媒體。該舉措也讓其行動獲得了更多的關注,最終,港口的空氣變干凈了。拉科布說:“這類設備能夠讓人們拿出證據,從而推動變革。”(財富中文網)

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

As fires ravaged California this week, Bay Area residents received a public warning to stay inside. The reason: Traveling smoke from the Kincade Fire had made outdoor air unhealthy to breathe. The smoke, full of particulate matter, could lodge into people’s lungs, causing various respiratory dangers—especially to young children.

Indeed, worsening air quality from the California blaze along with the globe’s other raging infernos—including those devouring forests in Brazil, Alaska, and Serbia—are taking a toll on human health. Over the last decade, medical research has shown a link between poor air quality and health problems like heart attacks, asthma, and premature death. Meanwhile, research by Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the University of California, the World Bank, and Bain & Co., have even suggested that high pollution contributes to poor job performance, lower productivity, and sick days.

Awareness of the danger air pollution poses to health has also grown, resulting in—among other things—technologies designed to help people breathe a sigh of relief. With names like AirVisual, Airmon, Awair, Huma-i, Temtop, Atmotube, and Flow, a crop of small, portable monitors priced under $300 promise to tell consumers what they’re inhaling on a minute-by-minute basis—whether it’s exposure to pollutants on a daily commute, or wildfire smoke on a morning run. And unlike the air quality monitoring smartphone apps that provide general data for a city or larger area, these devices provide measurements for users’ exact locations, whether it’s a specific neighborhood block or inside a house.

Varying from the size of a salt shaker to a large smartphone, these low cost air quality monitors offer a variety of features. For instance, the $260 IQAir is about the size of a small paperback book with a full screen that displays the current conditions, weather forecasts, and suggestions on how to mitigate poor air quality, whether it’s wearing a mask outdoors or running an air purifier indoors. The $179 Flow monitor, meanwhile, is six inches tall, weighs 11 ounces and measures particulate matter, nitrous oxides, and volatile organic compounds. It’s meant to be clipped onto clothing or a backpack, so it can beam information to a mobile app it connects to via Bluetooth.

In an increasingly polluted world, these kinds of micro-monitoring devices may be key to health—and survival. According to new study by the Environmental Defense Fund, air pollution can be eight times worse on one end of a block than another. The group learned this by driving cars equipped with small air quality monitors around Oakland, London, and Houston. A separate study of school buses found that pollution levels inside were sometimes worse than they were outside. “Air pollution behaves differently than you’d expect,” says Aileen Nowlan, who led the EDF’s research.

Smoke and mirrors?

During lasts year’s wildfires, Californians started snapping up these new air quality monitors to assess if the actions they were taking to reduce particle levels—such as shutting windows and running air filters—were adequate. “It’s a powerful way to see how effective your actions are,"says Brett Singer, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “We’re big fans.”

In some cases, the low-cost devices can be nearly as good as professional grade monitors that cost $15,000 to $20,000, says Singer. In other cases, they’re less reliable or accurate than regulatory tools. To ensure proper measurements, he recommends comparing the inexpensive monitors to a regulatory monitoring station, if there’s one located nearby.

The current fires burning in California have prompted sales to double in October at Atmotube, a San Francisco startup that launched last year on Indigogo and now sells air quality monitors for $99 and $179. Atmotube’s devices connect to users smartphone via Bluetooth to provide users with real-time levels of volatile organic compounds, particulate matters, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.

Atmotube also saw an uptick in orders from Brazil after the World Health Organization issued a health warning in September to the 30 million people who live within the vicinity of the 6,442 fires burning in the state of Rond?nia. Toxic smoke clouds drifted as far as 1,800 miles to S?o Paulo and to the tropical city of Porto Velho, and patients have been flooding into health centers with breathing problems.

“It’s sad to say we see demand during wildfire season,” says Daria Chagina, Atmotube’s chief marketing officer. “We’re seeing an awakening where people are finally taking into consideration the impact of inhaling air pollution and how they can take personal control.”

The new pollution

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But where there’s none, there can still be particulate matter (PM), an air pollutant that’s becoming increasingly more common. Much of the concern over PM revolves around tiny particles and droplets that come from vehicle emissions, heating oil, wood, and coal. On hot days or times when there is little wind, exposure to these particles can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. It specifically impacts people who suffer from asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease.

PM isn’t simply a buzzword that’s picking up traction; it’s a health-endangering pollution trend that’s getting worse. In the last decade, studies have linked long-term exposure to PM and premature death—mostly aggravated by cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3.7 million people die annually from health conditions worsened by outdoor pollution, including aggravated ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory infections in children.

In the U.S. from 2015 to 2017, more cities had days of high ozone and short-term particle pollution compared to 2014 to 2016, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report. This year the E.U. went so far as to take legal action against a number of countries, including the U.K. and Germany, for surpassing pollution limits.

Makers of personal air quality monitors say the hope is that by better understanding the dangers of PM exposure, people will make changes to their life that will protect their health. That could mean making small changes like altering their commute to work or the route they take while running outdoors. But it could also mean pushing for even bigger changes in their communities.

In London, for example, King’s College used data from air quality monitors put on school children’s backpacks to determine that kids were exposed to five times more nitrogen dioxide on their commute than when they were at school. London parents also used devices to measure pollution, pressuring administrators to enforce no-idle zones in pick up and drop-off lanes and form walking buses, in which children walk to school along a specific route that avoids auto exhaust.

People can also use these devices to see a bigger-picture shift in local or national air quality, by uploading their real-time measurements to crowdsourced sites like the PurpleAir Network and AirVisual. These apps let people automatically upload their data and get real-time mapping of air quality in their area and around the world. And as more people voluntarily share their data online, the clearer the map of the pollution will get, says Singer.

During last year’s California wildfires, the PurpleAir Network saw 100 times more traffic to the site. “People use it like a weather report, figuring out where they’ll take their kids to play, where they’ll go to hike or cycle,” says Adrian Dybwad, PurpleAir founder.

This promise of empowering individuals with information is what initially inspired Plume Labs CEO Romain Lacombe to develop his company’s air quality monitor, Flow.

For example, Lacombe points out that air quality monitors assisted residents in their campaign to press the city of Toulon in South France to electrify a busy shipping port, which people had long suspected contributed to air pollution. Earlier this year, citizens gathered air quality data and brought the results to the media. The move brought more exposure to their effort, which ultimately cleaned up the air at the port. “This lets people come to the table with evidence that can drive change,” says Lacombe.

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