Environment, public health

How to become an AirKeeper for your neighborhood

A smog-filled cityscape of Beijing, China.

Become an AirKeeper: Don’t let your neighborhood air get as filthy as Beijing’s. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The power to monitor the air can sit in the palm of your hand.

Clean Air Carolina, a Charlotte-based nonprofit, has launched an AirKeeper program that deploys citizen scientists and sensors into neighborhoods, schools, even private back yards.

Today, NCPW posted a story about how citizens are filling in the monitoring gaps created by a lack of funding and political will on the state and federal level.

The group is soliciting donations for the programs; for $450, an individual, group or even city/county can get an air sensor, a mobile device for uploading the data, plus training and technical expertise. The AirKeeper program uses sensors that measure particulate matter, PM 2.5, microscopic pollution, which can damage the lungs and heart. Next year, Clean Air Carolina plans to expand the monitoring to include ozone.

Terry Lansdell, program director for Clean Air Carolina, said citizens can use what’s known as fixed monitoring: Placing a sensor outside a home, school or community center, for a span of time, usually a month, where the air can be constantly monitored. All the information collected is uploaded online as part of a crowd-sourcing data management. “We can look at data in real time,” Lansdell said. “It’s a powerful tool.”

People can also use a sensor for mobile monitoring. They can walk around their neighborhood or in suspected pollution hotspots to get real-time data. Or a person with asthma could carry a sensor for a day to determine if they should avoid certain areas. The data could also be useful in looking back to see if an asthma attack might have been triggered by pollution.

To contact Clean Air Carolina about the program, call Terry Lansdell at 980-213-6446 or email him at terry@cleanaircarolina.org. More info is also available from Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, which is part of Clean Air Carolina. Laura Wenzel of Chapel Hill is the manager of that program: Laura@CleanAirCarolina.org

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