Biohazard wearables: Measuring one’s exposure to pollution

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Biohazard wearables: Measuring one’s exposure to pollution

Biohazard wearables: Measuring one’s exposure to pollution

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Devices are being constructed to quantify individuals’ exposure to pollutants and determine the risk factor of developing related diseases.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • April 7, 2023

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    Though numerous health problems arise through airborne particles, individuals tend to go lax with air quality on their travel routes. New consumer devices aim to change that by providing real-time pollution measurements. 

    Biohazard wearables context

    Biohazard wearables are devices used to monitor the exposure of individuals to dangerous environmental contaminants like particulate matter and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Home monitoring devices like Speck mainly work by counting, sizing, and categorizing particles by counting the shadows cast against a laser beam, especially concerning particulate matter. 

    A similar device designed by researchers at the Universities of Michigan, Michigan State, and Oakland even aims to provide alternative clean routes to wearers in near real-time. To detect SARS-CoV-2, the Fresh Air Clip from the American Chemical Society uses a specialized chemical surface that absorbs the virus without requiring any power source. It can be tested later to measure the virus’s concentration. Researchers have previously used specialized equipment called active air sampling devices to detect the virus in indoor spaces. However, these monitors are not practical for widespread use because they are costly, large, and non-portable.

    The need for such devices has risen as pollution levels rise, making researchers work towards creating wearables that could help joggers, walkers, and patients with respiratory diseases to identify and avoid routes with the most pollutants. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic further intensified the need for individuals to access inexpensive wearable devices that allow them to assess their risk factors.   

    Disruptive impact 

    As biohazard wearables become commonplace, workers will get to assess their working conditions and take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. Widespread awareness may lead to more substantial precautions and, thus, decreased risks. For example, as workers realize the level of exposure to viruses in places where physical distancing is not possible, they can ensure that they always use protective gear and appropriate sanitation methods. As models are released for commercialization, many businesses can be expected to improvise and come up with updated versions. 

    Additionally, healthcare workers can use biohazard wearables to protect themselves from infectious diseases while providing care to patients. For law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, these devices could be used to protect themselves from hazardous materials while responding to emergencies. Workers in factories and warehouses can also wear these biohazard wearables to measure the level of pollutants they are exposed to daily, particularly for plastic and chemical production.

    However, there are still challenges to the widespread adoption of these devices. Aside from high costs due to low supply (as of 2022), the effectiveness of these devices depends on the specific hazard they are developed to detect. Additionally, supporting infrastructures must be in place, such as satellites and the Internet of Things (IoT), to maximize the potential of these tools. There also needs to be clear regulations on how these tools will be recycled to prevent them from further contributing to carbon emissions.

    Implications of biohazard wearables

    Wider implications of biohazard wearables may include:

    • A better quality of life for respiratory disease victims through increased pollutant exposure control. 
    • Pressure on private and public organizations to improve air quality as awareness increases among the public.
    • Greater awareness about the disparity between pollution levels in privileged and marginalized communities. 
    • Increasing awareness of high-pollutant industries, such as manufacturing and logistics, leading to fewer investments in these sectors.
    • Better protection and mitigation of future epidemics and pandemics.

    Questions to consider

    • Do you expect these devices to be feasible for use in developing economies exposed to higher pollution levels?
    • Do you expect a big change in public perception about the environment after having easy access to devices that can measure pollutant exposure? 

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: