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Personal exposure monitoring using GPS-enabled portable air pollution sensors: A strategy to promote citizen awareness and behavioral changes regarding indoor and outdoor air pollution



Little is known about how individuals are exposed to air pollution in various daily activity spaces due to a lack of data collected in the full range of spatial contexts in which they spend their time. The limited understanding makes it difficult for people to act in informed ways to reduce their exposure both indoors and outdoors.


This study aimed to (1) assess whether personalized air quality data collected using GPS-enabled portable monitors (GeoAir2), coupled with travel-activity diaries, promote people’s awareness and behavioral changes regarding indoor and outdoor air pollution and (2) demonstrate the effect of places and activities on personal exposure by analyzing individual exposure profiles.


44 participants carried GeoAir2 to collect geo-referenced air pollution data and completed travel-activity diaries for three days. These data were then combined for spatial data analysis and visualization. Participants also completed pre- and post-session surveys about awareness and behaviors regarding air pollution. Paired-sample t-tests were performed to evaluate changes in knowledge, attitudes/perceptions, and behavioral intentions/practices, respectively. Lastly, follow-up interviews were conducted with a subset of participants.


Most participants experienced PM2.5 peaks indoors, especially when cooking at home, and had the lowest exposure in transit. Participants reported becoming more aware of air quality in their surroundings and more concerned about its health effects (t = 3.92, p = 0.000) and took more action or were more motivated to alter their behaviors to mitigate their exposure (t = 3.40, p = 0.000) after the intervention than before. However, there was no significant improvement in knowledge (t = 0.897; p = 0.187).


Personal exposure monitoring, combined with travel-activity diaries, leads to positive changes in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors related to air pollution. This study highlights the importance of citizen engagement in air monitoring for effective risk communication and air pollution management.

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Fig. 1: Portable air monitor and the three ways to carry/wear the monitor.
Fig. 2: An example of a travel-activity diary data entry.
Fig. 3: Data collection workflow.
Fig. 4: Two time-series graphs for one participant’s data.
Fig. 5: Examples of PM2.5 peaks at workplaces and places of worship.
Fig. 6: Box plots of scores for the three thematic areas in the awareness/behavior survey.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are not publicly available because they include personally identifiable information that could compromise research participant privacy/consent.


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Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number P30ES025128. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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Authors and Affiliations



YMP conceptualized the study, designed the methodology, developed study materials, performed the spatial data analyses and visualization, interpreted the results, and wrote the manuscript. DC performed statistical analyses and drafted a portion of the methods section. YMP and DC led the data collection. SS contributed to the design of the study. NF-B, JRA, and JR-P contributed to the development of study materials, data collection, and result interpretation. YMP and SS secured funding for the research study. All authors reviewed and edited the manuscript and approved the final version.

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Correspondence to Yoo Min Park.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The project protocol and materials were approved by the University and Medical Center Institutional Review Board at East Carolina University on June 16, 2020 (IRB#: UMCIRB 20-001302).

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Park, Y.M., Chavez, D., Sousan, S. et al. Personal exposure monitoring using GPS-enabled portable air pollution sensors: A strategy to promote citizen awareness and behavioral changes regarding indoor and outdoor air pollution. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2022).

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  • Air pollution; environmental monitoring; geospatial analyses; particulate matter; personal exposure; sensors

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