Community Air Monitoring

2020-04-02T12:21:19-05:00|

Community Air Monitoring

Monitoring Our Air

Significant gaps in the public air monitoring network mean many Houston communities don’t know what’s in the air they are breathing. This lack of monitors is putting the health of local residents at risk.

The issue

While the Houston region is purportedly one of the most heavily monitored metropolitan areas in the country, it is also one of the most heavily polluted. 

The Greater Houston is home to over 500 facilities listed in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). In 2017, more toxic pollution was released in the Houston Metropolitan area than by the top five US Metropolitan economies combined. 

Lax land-use policies and sprawling residential development have resulted in industrial and transportation-related air pollution sources being located in close proximity to many Houston communities, often those of color and low-wealth. The current monitoring network has been designed with the intent of determining compliance with federal air quality standards and is often inadequate for identifying localized sources of air pollution which could put public health at risk. 

The below map shows the locations of TRI facilities in Harris County and existing air monitors, illustrating the lack of monitoring coverage in many high-risk areas. 

Harris County VOC monitoring locations (purple crosses) and PM 2.5 (red crosses) with TRI facility locations (dots). The polygons encapsulate the nearest monitor for the area within.

What we’re doing

A community-based air monitoring network

We are collaborating with Harris County to help inform the expansion of the county’s air monitoring network – an effort recently undertaken by the county in response to the spate of chemical fires that occurred in the spring of 2019 and culminated in the ITC Disaster. 

Additionally, we are working to establish our own community-based air monitoring network to supplement regional efforts. This low-cost network is being designed to address neighborhood-level air quality concerns in communities with the greatest risks. It will comprise a mix of different types of air monitors, including the already installed Purple Air particulate matter monitors, that will detect common pollutants. This additional air monitoring capacity will help identify and raise awareness about air pollution sources in neighborhoods most impacted by poor air quality, and equally importantly, guide mitigative strategies and public policy to protect health. 

Have an air quality concern? 

We help to provide residents with accurate real-time local air quality data that can be used to document specific air quality problems. Contact us if you have an air quality concern.

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