Public Lab Research note

Empowering People to Act on Air Pollution

by A_SCH , kgradow1 | November 08, 2020 22:35 08 Nov 22:35 | #24956 | #24956

Co-authored by: Bongani Mthembu and Desmond D'Sa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Rico Euripidou, groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

Bobby Peek explains how bucket monitors are powerful tools communities can use to organize around and create campaigns.

"The bucket is a tool and the bucket brigade is a system."

In creating a successful campaign two main things are needed: data and social advocacy. Buckets are the tool that provide the data necessary in proving the legitimacy of the community concern. They strengthen the campaign by being able to prove to industry, government, and fellow community members the very real and very serious risk caused by polluters. At the same time, data alone cannot create change, it needs the voices and energy of people behind it to make sure it is seen and taken seriously. This is where the system of the bucket brigade come into play by using the available tools of bucket monitors and social advocacy tactics to build a powerful campaign.

"The bucket is a self empowering tool allowing you to take control of campaigning. You don't have to depend on information from industry or government."

One of the most important aspects of bucket monitoring is that it's community controlled. Communities don't have to wait for, or fight for, data to be released, instead they can gather the information themselves. This allows communities to both work on their own timeline as well as have a better pathway to challenge the data and claims of industries.

"It's good science that communities can use in their daily organizing and campaigning."

Bucket monitors are successful tools because they are accessible without sacrificing reliability. The technology is relatively inexpensive when compared to other air monitors and easy to build meaning it can be used often, and widely through a community. It's reliable because it consistently produces accurate information about the air quality and in-depth data about specific chemical levels. This combination makes bucket monitors an ideal air sampling method for community use and campaigning.


@A_SCH has marked @kgradow1 as a co-author.

Great video and explanation of how to use the bucket.. However, even though the bucket is inexpensive to build, the testing is fairly expensive.. that's really important too. We wouldn't want to dissuade folks. how bout we are upfront about it?.. provide the testing costs.

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@jjcreedon - definitely flagging this for @mimiss @bhamster as we continue to grow documentation about air quality monitoring on the website and for the Store. Also tagging @A_SCH @kgradow1 as well as they're continuously growing this information on the Public Lab website! Thank you for speaking up about the costs of the sampling.

For sure @jjcreedon. This wiki on air sample analysis contains a table listing some testing labs in the US and their general costs for analysis.

Prices have come down a bit.. are you sure all these labs have the special apparatus on their GC/MS to connect the tedlar bag?

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Yes, as of when I contacted the lab and received confirmation, at least. You highlight, though, that it'd be a good idea for anyone contacting a lab in the future to ask again and make sure.

Good to hear that these prices are better!

yes, things may have changed.. but the last time I sent our sample off.. the only lab that had this apparatus was ALS in Simi Valley, CA. They are the ones I would recommend anyway.. they have had tons of experience with this analysis and customer service has been great

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