Wildfire Smoke Adjustment Factors for Low-Cost and Professional PM2.5 Monitors with Optical Sensors
Air quality monitors using low-cost optical PM2.5 sensors can track the dispersion of wildfire smoke; but quantitative hazard assessment requires a smoke-specific adjustment factor (AF). This study determined AFs for three professional-grade devices and four monitors with low-cost sensors based on measurements inside a well-ventilated lab impacted by the 2018 Camp Fire in California (USA). Using the Thermo TEOM-FDMS as reference, AFs of professional monitors were 0.85 for Grimm mini wide-range aerosol spectrometer, 0.25 for TSI DustTrak, and 0.53 for Thermo pDR1500; AFs for low-cost monitors were 0.59 for AirVisual Pro, 0.48 for PurpleAir Indoor, 0.46 for Air Quality Egg, and 0.60 for eLichens Indoor Air Quality Pro Station. We also compared public data from 53 PurpleAir PA-II monitors to 12 nearby regulatory monitoring stations impacted by Camp Fire smoke and devices near stations impacted by the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires in California and the Pole Creek Fire in Utah. Camp Fire AFs varied by day and location, with median (interquartile) of 0.48 (0.44–0.53). Adjusted PA-II 4-h average data were generally within ±20% of PM2.5 reported by the monitoring stations. Adjustment improved the accuracy of Air Quality Index (AQI) hazard level reporting, e.g., from 14% to 84% correct in Sacramento during the Camp Fire.