EPA Awards $4.5M to Advance Portable, Easy-to-Use Air Pollution Monitors for 'Communities'

Susan Jones | August 10, 2016 | 7:17am EDT
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EPA describes itself as "a science leader in the development and improvement of instruments, methods, techniques and other tools to measure and monitor air quality and evaluate air emissions to protect public health and the environment from air pollution. (Photo from EPA Website)

(CNSNews.com) - The Environmental Protection Agency, which puts "environmental justice" front and center, on Tuesday announced it will distribute $4.5 million in grants to six research organizations to develop new low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ways of measuring air pollution in "communities."

“This research will provide tools communities can use to understand air pollution in their neighborhoods and improve public health,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA science advisor and deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

EPA says advances in air sensor technology are "empowering" communities to learn more about local air quality where they live, work and play.

Not only does the technology support the "citizen science movement," but it also may bring changes to communities that are "overburdened by poor air quality because of emissions from motor vehicles and other sources of pollution."

EPA notes that people living near highways, railroads, and other undesirable locations "have a higher potential for childhood asthma or other public health issues related to poor air quality." It says the new air sensor technology can be used to identify and assess air quality concerns, allowing citizens to "take action" to reduce their exposure.

Data from portable air sensors may figure in several Obama administration priorities, including climate change; health care; "sustainable communities" and fair housing; and reducing various "disparities" in the population.

According to the EPA's 2020 Environmental Justice Action Agenda, the agency will "integrate environmental justice into everything we do, cultivate strong partnerships to improve on-the-ground results, and chart a path forward for achieving better environmental outcomes and reducing disparities in the nation’s most overburdened communities.

"Achieving this vision will help to make our vulnerable, environmentally burdened, and economically disadvantaged communities healthier, cleaner and more sustainable places in which to live, work, play and learn."

Over the next five years, EPA says it will focus on:

-- Deepening environmental justice progress in EPA’s programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;

-- Working with partners to expand our positive impact in overburdened communities;

-- Demonstrating progress on significant national environmental justice challenges.

The $4.5 million in grants for portable, easy-to-use air sensor technology are going to: 

-- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa., to research the accuracy of air pollution sensors and the usefulness of the sensor data.

-- Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., will create a partnership with local organizations in South Chicago to evaluate the effects of community-led research on the community’s understanding of air pollution.

-- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., will create a Hawaii Island Volcanic Smog Sensor Network of air pollution sensors to track air quality changes caused by the emissions from the Kilauea volcano that impacts health and agricultural crops.

-- Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, N.C., will create a framework to empower and support communities near Denver, Colo. to design and conduct air quality monitoring studies.

-- The South Coast Air Quality Management District, Diamond Bar, Calif., will engage California communities on the use, accuracy, and application of “low-cost” air monitoring sensors in collaboration with the University of California, Los Angeles.

-- University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., will use low-cost, next-generation air particle sensors to address wood smoke exposures within the Yakama Nation and Latino populations in a rural area of Washington State.

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