Are Low-Cost Monitors Good Enough to Help People Understand Poor Air Quality in Their Neighborhood?

Ilie, Ana Maria Carmen, Colorado School of Mines, ailie@mines.edu; Holger M. Eisl, heisl@qc.cuny.edu (Poster)

There is a growing field of “citizen scientists,” non-scientists engaged in specific issues who collect or analyze data to contribute to scientific research or advocate for environmental or public health improvements. Specific aims of this study included the increase of citizen engagement in accessing, collecting, and communicating air quality data, to provide tools to better inform communities on air quality issues; and, increased data collection in communities that can offer additional spatial and temporal data on pollution levels beyond existing New York City Community Air Survey (NYCCAS) program and regulatory methods in the New York City. It explored the feasibility of using stationary low-cost monitoring networks for spatial and temporal estimation of ambient fine particulate concentrations (PM2.5) in an environmental justice community in New York City—El Puente, in Brooklyn a borough which is characterized by a high rate of asthma and cardiorespiratory issues due to the presence of high levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere. The study area is located close to Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Williamsburg Bridge. The data collection started in March 2019 and lasted until November 2019. Based on the R-squared value a strong agreement was observed between FEM and AirBeam2 low-cost monitors. As a part of citizen sci- ence, the act of monitoring pollution by citizens themselves facilitated learning and increasing their awareness of environmental issues by changing the public attitude towards science and the environment. Through this work, citizens had the opportunity to have access to infor- mational tools that helped them understand the distribution of health outcomes as a result of air pollution, identify areas with highest PM2.5 concentration and avoid harmful exposures to their bodies. Detailed data analysis with fine-scale monitoring helped create a rich datasets useful for addressing public health uncertainties.


Ana M.C. Ilie currently is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Colorado School of Mines, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, working on a collaborative project involving the institutions University of California, Berkeley and Rothamsted Research and Innovation United Kingdom. Project focus on dynamic coupling of soil structure and gas fluxes measured with distributed sensor systems, implications for carbon modeling. Her Ph.D. is in Earth Sciences from the University of Ferrara (Italy) in collaboration with University of Colorado at Boulder (USA)​. Her area of research focused on Smart Sensor Technology for Environmental Monitoring Applications, and focused primarily on building and installing new low-cost air-water-soil quality monitors surrounding drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities in Italy and in Colorado USA, interested in learning more about how certain air pollutants can vary within a neighborhood in relation to the location of the Oil and Gas production sites. Her postdoctoral research focused on Air Quality Citizen Science project - New York City Community Air Survey (NYCCAS) at Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment NYC. Increased community awareness of local air quality, its determinants, and air pollution-related health risks. Increased citizen participation in acquiring, interpreting, and communicating air quality data. Developed methods for citizen air quality monitoring which could be scaled to other communities. Developed strategies for disseminating information to the public and air quality monitoring community.

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