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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-327
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 May 2018

Research article | 14 May 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Airborne particulate matter monitoring in Kenya using calibrated low cost sensors

Francis D. Pope1, Michael Gatari2, David Ng’ang’a2, Alexander Poynter1, and Rhiannon Blake1 Francis D. Pope et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  • 2Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya

Abstract. East African countries face an increasing threat from poor air quality, stemming from rapid urbanisation, population growth and a steep rise in fuel use and motorization rates. With few air quality monitoring systems available, this study provides the much needed high temporal resolution data to investigate the concentrations of particulate matter (PM) air pollution in Kenya. Calibrated low cost optical particle counters (OPCs) were deployed in Kenya in three locations: two in the capital of Nairobi and one in a rural location in the outskirts of Nanyuki, which is upwind of Nairobi. The two Nairobi sites consist of an urban background site and a roadside site. The instruments were composed of an Alphasense OPC-N2 optical particle counter (OPC) ran with a raspberry pi low cost microcomputer, packaged in a weather proof box. Measurements were conducted over a two-month period (February–March 2017) with an intensive study period when all measurements were active at all sites lasting two weeks. When collocated, the three OPC-N2 instruments demonstrated good inter-instrument precision with a coefficient of variance of 8.8±2.0% in the PM2.5 fraction. The low cost sensors had an absolute PM mass concentration calibration using a collocated gravimetric measurement at the urban background site in Nairobi.

The mean daily PM1 mass concentration measured at the urban roadside, urban background and rural background sites were 23.9, 16.1, 8.8µgm−3. The mean daily PM2.5 mass concentration measured at the urban roadside, urban background and rural background sites were 36.6, 24.8, 13.0µgm−3. The mean daily PM10 mass concentration measured at the urban roadside, urban background and rural background sites were 93.7, 53.0, 19.5µgm−3. The urban measurements in Nairobi showed that particulate matter concentrations regularly exceed WHO guidelines in both the PM10 and PM2.5 size ranges. Following a Lenschow type approach we can estimate the urban and roadside increments that are applicable to Nairobi. Median urban and roadside increments are 33.1 and 43.3µgm−3 for PM10, respectively, the median urban and roadside increments are 7.1 and 18.3µgm−3 for PM2.5, respectively, and the median urban and roadside increments are 4.7 and 12.6µgm−3 for PM1, respectively. These increments highlight the importance of both the urban and roadside increments to urban air pollution in Nairobi.

A clear diurnal behaviour in PM mass concentration was observed at both urban sites, which peaks during the morning and evening Nairobi rush hours; this was consistent with the high measured roadside increment indicating vehicular traffic being a dominant source of particulate matter in the city, accounting for approximately 48.1, 47.5, and 57.2% of the total particulate matter loading in the PM10, PM2.5 and PM1 size ranges, respectively. Collocated meteorological measurements at the urban sites were collected, allowing for an understanding of the location of major sources of particulate matter at the two sites. The potential problems of using low cost sensors for PM measurement without gravimetric calibration available at all sites are discussed.

This study shows that calibrated low cost sensors can be used successfully to measure air pollution in cities like Nairobi. It demonstrates that low cost sensors could be used to create an affordable and reliable network to monitor air quality in cities.

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Short summary
Many low and middle income countries face an increasing threat from poor air quality, stemming from rapid urbanisation, population growth and rises in fuel and motorization use. This paper presents high temporal resolution particulate matter (PM) data, using low cost sensors, for the exemplar city of Nairobi, Kenya, where PM levels are found to be much greater than WHO recommendations. The study shows that calibrated low cost sensors can be used successfully to measure PM in cities like Nairobi.
Many low and middle income countries face an increasing threat from poor air quality, stemming...
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