Testing and monitoring air quality is an essential part of our scientific research, specifically when analyzing smoke-free products, We’ve previously explored our findings on the effects of our Tobacco heating System (THS) and cigarettes on indoor air quality. While that research used a controlled laboratory setting to monitor quality, using a controlled setting isn’t always possible, especially when investigating air quality in real-world environments. Therefore, outside specialized laboratory settings, more practical solutions are needed.
When considering the sources of air pollution such as cigarette smoke and mineral dust, the concentration of suspended particulate matter (PM) is an important element. When these aerosols are inhaled, particles smaller than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) can reach the alveoli in the lungs and be deposited there. Particles that are water non-soluble and of solid nature can be transported into the blood stream, promoting the risk of diseases such as cardiopulmonary disorders or cancer. Air pollution is attributed to PM2.5, with research suggesting that every 10 µg/m³ increase in PM2.5 exposure can lead to a 2.8% increase in mortality.
We aimed to validate the suitability of the DustTrak DRX aerosol monitor to determine complex aerosols for air quality measurement by assessing three of the devices, compared to the gold standard, across five different factors:
We conclude that DustTrak DRX is a powerful tool for monitoring suspended PM mass concentration, and a good alternative to gravimetric techniques when less labor-intensive real-time monitoring is needed.
The importance of correct calibration in the bias testing also suggests a limitation. The device has to be evaluated in the laboratory every time a new type of aerosol matrix is introduced. In our research paper, we mention the importance of appropriate calibration for light-scattering sensors. This is in contrast to a publication by Protano et al., which omitted any mention of calibration used during their study for DustTrak DRX aerosol concentration measurements.
Our findings also suggest DustTrak DRX might lack sensitivity for particles <0.1 µm and >15 µm in diameter – because of the light-scattering method used – and may underestimate mass concentrations for highly volatile compounds. Additionally, the instrument position and aerosol dilution during monitoring may affect mass concentration measurements.
To accurately and precisely measure PM in indoor air in real-time, it’s essential to use the right tool for with the correct calibration factor is used for each given situation.