As the national capital and some north Indian states battle severe air pollution, a team of researchers will use tiny sensors attached to the body to find out the amount of pollutant a Delhiite inhales everyday. The multidisciplinary team of researchers, including computer scientists, doctors and exposure scientists from nine institutes in the UK and India – led by the University of Edinburgh – will examine links between long-term exposure to air pollution and health over a four-year period.
“The Delhi Air Pollution: Health and Effects (DAPHNE) project brings together best-in-class researchers from India and the UK to address the pressing problem of the health effects of sustained exposure to high levels of air pollution,” Professor DK Arvind of the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the study, said. “We believe this innovative research, funded by the UK research councils over the past 15 years, could eventually help millions of people in Delhi and countless other global cities,” the professor said.
According to a statement by the University of Edinburgh, air pollution levels in Delhi reached more than 16 times the safe limit, prompting the local government to declare an emergency situation. The DAPHNE project involves 760 pregnant women, who will wear the air pollution monitors attached as adhesive patches and scientists will record the health of the mothers and their children following birth. The researchers will also focus on 360 young people with asthma in order to examine the level of exercise they can tolerate amid air pollution.
The researchers would use battery-powered respiratory monitors, known as ‘RESpecks’ and the air pollution monitors, called ‘AIRSpecks’, utilise ‘Speckled Computing’, a technology being pioneered by scientists at the University of Edinburgh. “‘Specks’ are tiny devices that can be placed on everyday objects, and people, in order to sense, compute and communicate data. In the DAPHNE project, these sensors transmit each person’s data wireless to their mobile phone, enabling the user to monitor their individual exposure to pollution,” the statement said.
The project will also provide for larger versions of the same types of monitors, with additional sensors to measure concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and ozone, it said, adding, “These will be attached to lamp posts in order to create a
network of monitors to measure air pollution levels across Delhi.” The data from the solar-powered lamp post monitors will then be uploaded via cellular network and shared with those taking part in the study. The information will enable users find the cleanest and shortest route between places in the city based on up-to-date information, personalised to their condition.
The devices have been developed at the Centre for Speckled Computing in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. According to the statement, the project was awarded 1,165,209 pounds by the UK’s Medical Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council, and is funded in India by the Department of Biotechnology and the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The Indian partners include Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, AIIMS, Delhi, Delhi University College of Medical Sciences, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur and INCLEN, which is a ‘not for profit’ research organisation conducting multi-disciplinary studies on high priority global health issues.
The UK Partners include the University of Edinburgh (Centre for Speckled Computing, School of Informatics and Centre for Cardiovascular Science), Imperial College (National Chest and Heart Institute) and the Institute for Occupational Medicine.