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Using a low-cost monitor to assess the impact of leaf blowers on particle pollution during street cleaning


Personal exposure to particulate matter (PM) is associated with a variety of adverse health effects and cardiopulmonary diseases. As a mitigating measure to improve air quality, policymakers should select street cleaning tools according to their potential environmental impact, but there is little information about their actual effect on particle pollution. This paper describes the contribution made by leaf blowers to suspended PM and analyzes the duration of this effect during street sweeping in an urban environment. Particle concentration has been monitored throughout a fixed-site 104-day sampling campaign using the Dylos DC1700, a low-cost real-time laser particle counter. This detector recognizes two sizes of particles, coarse and fine, and records data every minute, which provides unique time resolution in the observation of the effect of leaf blowers. The results show that the use of leaf blowers raises fine PM to 13.9 μg/m3 and coarse ones to 31.5 μg/m3, which increases the number 1.6 times and 1.7 times, respectively, when compared with normal median particle concentration. The particulate matter stays resuspended in the air for several minutes, creating a dust wave effect. Low-cost sensors, such as the Dylos, are proposed as a practical methodology to help local decision-makers incorporate environmental variables in decision-making.

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The authors thank Salvador González Moreno for offering surveillance and assistance throughout the study, Mayte Prior Marco and Pepe Hernández Mown for recording the passes of the leaf blowers from their bakery, and Laura Wettersten for the language revision.

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Correspondence to Jose Moreno.

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• Leaf blowers increase fine and coarse PM up to 1.6 times and 1.7 times, respectively.

• The passing of leaf blowers produces a 4-min dust wave of high PM.

• The Dylos proved to be a valid tool for PM evaluation of short-term events.

• Low-cost sensors help incorporate environmental aspects into decision-making.

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Costa-Gómez, I., Bañón, D., Moreno-Grau, S. et al. Using a low-cost monitor to assess the impact of leaf blowers on particle pollution during street cleaning. Air Qual Atmos Health 13, 15–23 (2020).

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  • Particulate matter
  • Air quality
  • Dust resuspension
  • Leaf blower
  • Low-cost monitor
  • Dylos