Plume Air Report Promo_Nairobi

Air pollution knows no borders. Now, neither do we. The latest update to the Plume Air Report extends our geographical coverage to every city on Earth. This means we’re bringing pollution data to whole continents that don’t have ample open access data from air quality monitoring stations.

Before the latest update, we only had two African cities in our app – Kampala in Uganda and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. It was a coverage issue we were keen to solve. But air quality across the continent is a big, and growing, problem. Plume Air Report is leading the fight with air quality forecasts from Cairo to Cape Town.

In areas where comprehensive air quality monitoring coverage is lacking, it can be hard to find the level of data necessary to frame and tackle the problem. No longer. Plume Labs believe open data is the first step towards solving the global air quality crisis.

So how’s the air?

Around 600,000 deaths across the continent are linked to air pollution every year. Around 14,300 of these deaths are Kenyan, according to a 2016 report from the UN titled “Actions on Air Quality”.

Indoor air quality is a serious problem. Wood burning and biofuel stoves cause serious health problems when used in poorly ventilated spaces. In addition, they contribute to lowering outdoor air quality by emitting particulate matter.

There’s already much great innovation aimed at improving indoor air quality – like the GravityLight Foundation’s work to eliminate kerosene lamps.

However, a 2009 study hinted at potential serious long term health implications for the city’s residents from PM2.5—particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns that are small enough to penetrate the bloodstream causing serious harm.

Rubbish fires and diesel generators also add to air pollution. Another major problem is the proliferation of older polluting vehicles that may not pass emissions standards elsewhere.

Car ownership in Nairobi has skyrocketed in recent years, leading to a public health warning. In 2015, carcinogens in the air were estimated to be 10 times higher than World Health Organisation recommended thresholds.\

Feature spotlight

Want to know more when checking the app? Tap the cloud symbol to zoom in on the details. We’ll break down our predictions pollutant by pollutant and add in yearly averages for good measure.

Because not everywhere has open access air quality monitoring networks, we need a different way to fill in the gaps. We therefore use a model—similar to weather forecasting models—to predict air quality in regions not covered by ground stations.

That’s why we include a confidence index to let you know the accuracy of the technique used in your city. Just tap the index in the app to know more about how it was calculated.

In the news

Certain measures have been put in place to try and tackle Kenya’s over reliance on polluting diesel fuels. In 2015, Kenya was among several East African countries to adopt national standards on cleaner fuels, including promoting a switch to low sulfur diesel.

International organisations are also stepping in to help improve the situation. The UN Environmental Assembly 2017 will be held in the city this December under the overarching theme of pollution—air quality will surely be high on the list of priorities.