As Threats To Air Quality Rise, Communities Deploy Low-Cost Air Monitors

"When the monitors detect unhealthy conditions, people can protect themselves by closing doors and windows and avoiding unmasked time outdoors."

"It’s a universal fear — getting an F in a class or a paper. But what happens when an entire region fails?

Take the Imperial Valley, which frequently receives low or failing grades for air quality. This agricultural hub in Southern California — ranked as one of the state’s poorest counties — is plagued by air pollution from agricultural burns, desert dust, wildfire smoke, and even pollution from the ongoing evaporation of the Salton Sea.

In response, community groups began working in 2007 to develop and implement the Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods, or IVAN, network, an environmental monitoring system that allows residents to report environmental violations and sign up for air quality alerts. Air quality monitors are key to the program. Dozens scattered around the region provide the community with publicly accessible air pollution readings.

Across the country, such air monitoring projects are growing in popularity as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of wildfires, which send plumes of dangerous smoke into the air. Heat waves can also worsen air pollution by contributing to the formation of smog. When monitors detect poor air quality, people can receive alerts and protect their health by closing doors and windows and avoiding time outdoors without a mask."

Savannah D'Evelyn and Rachel Goldstein report for Yale Climate Connections March 19, 2024.

Source: Yale Climate Connections, 03/21/2024