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Podcast: Monitoring air quality is crucial in the fight against pollution

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Podcast: Monitoring air quality is crucial in the fight against pollution

In this episode of SEI Asia’s podcast, Environment and Policy in Asia, we talk with AirGradient, a Thailand-based company using technological innovations to enhance air quality monitoring globally.

Charmaine Caparas / Published on 18 March 2024

Air pollution remains one of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, with far-reaching impacts on human health, ecosystems, and the global climate. While governments have taken significant strides through legislation and research to combat this issue, there’s a critical aspect that often goes overlooked: the importance of air quality monitoring.

Comprehensive monitoring plays a pivotal role in identifying the sources of pollutants, tracking trends over time, and gathering the necessary data to inform effective policies and personal decisions. Without a clear understanding of air quality dynamics, efforts to mitigate pollution may fall short of their potential, underscoring the need for increased focus and investment in advanced monitoring technologies and systems. By prioritizing air quality monitoring, we can empower decision-makers at all levels to devise strategies that are not only reactive but also proactive, ultimately leading to cleaner air and healthier communities around the globe.

In this episode of the SEI Asia Centre podcast, Environment and Policy in Asia, we talk with Achim Haug, CEO, and Anika Krause, Scientific Director, of AirGradient, a Thailand-based company.

They explain how technological innovations and open-source ethos drive their efforts to enhance global air quality monitoring.

Achim Haug and Anika Krause also spotlight the critical role of air quality monitoring in safeguarding public health and fostering environmental justice.

The genesis of AirGradient

 Achim’s journey began during a sabbatical in northern Thailand, coinciding with the region’s notorious “burning season” from January to May every year. Witnessing first-hand the detrimental effects of air pollution on the local schools his children attended, Achim embarked on what started as a volunteer project.

This endeavour has since evolved into AirGradient, a pioneering air quality monitoring company that democratizes and champions sustainability by enabling users to repair or upgrade their devices easily.

We want everyone across the world, and especially people in those disadvantaged communities, to breathe better air. So far, we have provided thousands of monitors in more than 70 countries.

Achim Haug, CEO, Air Gradient

Science of air quality monitoring

 Anika, an expert in the field, explains that air pollution encompasses a variety of harmful substances, with particulate matter (PM 2.5) being among the most studied due to its profound health implications. These microscopic particles, invisible to the human eye, can remain airborne for extended periods, constantly threatening public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes approximately 4.2 million premature deaths annually to outdoor air pollution, a staggering figure that underscores the urgency of addressing this issue.

Moreover, Anika emphasizes the importance of understanding air pollution’s varied sources and its impact on health to devise effective mitigation strategies. This understanding is pivotal for raising awareness and driving political and individual behavioral changes toward cleaner air.

Unequal burden of air pollution

 The podcast touches on environmental injustice, highlighting how air pollution disproportionately affects individuals in developing countries.

Anika points out the critical role of air quality data in driving improvements in air quality. Unfortunately, such data is often scarce in the very regions that bear the brunt of air pollution, exacerbating the disparity in health outcomes across the globe.

From a scientific point of view, we can say that in these affected countries, there is only little or no air quality data at all available, while in the economically strong countries, for example, in Europe or North America, the air quality is already very closely monitored. Research has found that recording air quality data and making it available to the public will eventually improve the air quality.

Anika Krause, Scientific Director, AirGradient

Indoor air quality: An overlooked aspect

A particularly enlightening segment of the conversation revolves around indoor air quality, an aspect frequently overlooked despite individuals spending most of their time indoors. Anika notes that indoor air can be as polluted, if not more so, than outdoor air due to a combination of infiltrating outdoor pollutants and indoor sources like cooking, heating, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from building materials and household products.

Listen to this episode of Environment and Policy in Asia:



Charmaine Caparas

Communications Manager


SEI Asia

Variya Plungwatana

Communications Assistant


SEI Asia

Rajesh Daniel

Head of Communications, SEI Asia


SEI Asia

Diane Archer

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Topics and subtopics
Air : Short-lived climate pollutants, Pollution
Related centres
SEI Asia

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