Performance of low-cost monitors to assess household air pollution

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Exposure to household air pollution is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. However, due to the lack of validated low-cost monitors with long-lasting batteries in indoor environments, most epidemiologic studies use self-reported data or short-term household air pollution assessments as proxies of long-term exposure. We evaluated the performance of three low-cost monitors measuring fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) in a wood-combustion experiment conducted in one household of Spain for 5 days (including the co-location of 2 units of HAPEX and 3 units of TZOA-R for PM2.5 and 3 units of EL-USB-CO for CO; a total of 40 unit-days). We used Spearman correlation (ρ) and Concordance Correlation Coefficient (CCC) to assess accuracy of low-cost monitors versus equivalent research-grade devices. We also conducted a field study in India for 1 week (including HAPEX in 3 households and EL-USB-CO in 4 households; a total of 49 unit-days). Correlation and agreement at 5-min were moderate-high for one unit of HAPEX (ρ = 0.73 / CCC = 0.59), for one unit of TZOA-R (ρ = 0.89 / CCC = 0.62) and for three units of EL-USB-CO (ρ = 0.82–0.89 / CCC = 0.66–0.91) in Spain, although the failure or malfunction rate among low-cost units was high in both settings (60% of unit-days in Spain and 43% in India). Low-cost monitors tested here are not yet ready to replace more established exposure assessment methods in long-term household air pollution epidemiologic studies. More field validation is needed to assess evolving sensors and monitors with application to health studies.

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