Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Microsensing

Microsensing: Air Pollution Measurements In The Palm Of Your Hand

The science behind air pollution in urban areas is clear: smog has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and breathing problems, and increased hospital visits.  But most of us have no way of knowing about the pollutants that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Expressways, waste facilities, and dry cleaners create highly-localized pollution that may not be detected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regional air monitoring data.  Larger-scale air monitoring isn’t designed to capture these types of traditional pollution sources, nor does it record local effects of unconventional emissions sources associated with  oil and gas development.  We have no real way to know when our local air pollution hits dangerous levels, and no way to avoid hazardous air in our communities.  Both Houston and Dallas rank among the most polluted cities in the United States, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013.  With well over 12 million Texans living in the Dallas/Houston metro areas, it’s crucial that concerned citizens have access to the right tools to monitor air pollution and take preventative measures when pollutants reach dangerous levels.

Michael Heimbinder, a Brooklyn entrepreneur, hopes to empower individuals with his small-scale air quality monitoring system, AirCasting.  The AirCasting system uses a mobile, Bluetooth-enabled air monitor not much larger than a smartphone to measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants.  An accompanying Android app records and formats the information to an emissions map.  Alternatively, another instrument, The Air Quality Egg, comes pre-assembled ready to use.  Innovative air monitoring systems, like AirCasting or The Air Quality Egg, empower ordinary citizens to monitor the pollution they encounter daily and proactively address problematic sources of pollution.

This technology is part of a growing movement to enable the use of small sensors. In response to inquiries about small-sensor data, the EPA is researching the next generation of air measuring technologiesEPA experts are working with sensor developers to evaluate data quality and understand useful sensor applications.  Through this ongoing collaboration, the EPA hopes to bolster measurements from conventional, stationary air-monitoring systems with data collected from individuals’ air quality microsensors. Read More »

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