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Relay Medalist Shingo Suetsugu explores Air Quality in Tokyo

Part of a global project Dyson has been undertaking around the world, working with six athletes to help educate them on their exposure to air pollution and its potential impact on wellbeing and performance

19 July 2021

In Japan, Men's 4x100m relay athlete Shingo Suetsugu wore Dyson’s prototype air quality backpack and travelled around Tokyo and Kanagawa, to investigate the air conditions in his daily life.

He is part of a group of five other athletes who were training towards the world’s largest sporting event this July – Annette Edmondson (Australia), Thomas Röhler (Germany), Dafne Schippers (Netherlands), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia), and Mujinga Kambundji (Switzerland) – who participated in Dyson’s wearable air monitoring technology project. They used Dyson’s prototype air quality backpack for a period of three days, using it all day long while completing different activities, to collect data to track their personal exposure to air pollution.

Shingo visited his usual practice base, areas near his home, as well as sightseeing spots in Tokyo, running courses, and places to visit when playing sports.

Dyson scientists initiated the project to explore how exposure could affect wellbeing. Re-working existing technology used in Dyson purifiers, the Dyson air quality backpack is a portable air-sensing device. Armed with on-board sensors, a battery pack and GPS, it is able to measure pollution data on the move.

Data Findings

Dyson engineers analysed the findings by pairing the air sensor and GPS data from the backpack with the athletes’ diary entries, where they documented their activities and observations in the period wearing the air quality backpack.

On Shingo’s route, the air quality was clean at a stadium and along the beach but spiked when he was near busy roads, an indication that the backpack may have picked up the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emitted from vehicles.

Exhaust gases from cars is one of the sources of NO2, which can increase pollution levels when along congested roads. It can also be detected at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings where many vehicles are stationary.

In this project, outdoor air quality as well as indoor air quality was monitored. In Shingo’s case, the main pollution event occurred when he grilled meat for dinner at a friend's house. Cooking methods, food type and temperature are all factors which can impact emissions released during cooking. Pollution may also linger in a space where these is less ventilation, leading to longer overall exposure.

“I have lived in Hiratsuka which is away from Tokyo since I was 20 years old. I can breathe the air which comes from the forest and the sea in Hiratsuka. I think it is really important for me as an athlete, to live in good air and the natural environment. But I didn't realise that indoor air might be polluted. What I learned through this research is that the air is not always clean in the place where I am. Now I know so I will be careful about it from now on.”

Shingo Suetsugu, Men's 4x100m relay athlete

The air quality backpack was initially developed by Dyson engineers for the Breathe London study with Kings College London and the Greater London Authority. Engineers designed the portable air monitoring device to be smaller and reflect existing sensing technology used in Dyson air purifiers, whilst still accurately capturing PM2.5, PM10 and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and NO2 exposure.

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