Public Lab Research note

August 11, 2021 Air Quality Community Call Debrief

by fongvania | August 19, 2021 05:58 19 Aug 05:58 | #27578 | #27578

Thank you to everyone who could make it to the call! This research note summarizes the highlights, and you can access the full notes HERE.


Ongoing Projects

  • Val Verde Air Monitoring Project (VVAMP): Gas monitoring at Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Southern California, which has been plaguing residents with foul odors and increased risk of asthma since its inception in 1972. To get involved as a volunteer or board member, contact the team at community[dot]vvamp[at]gmail[dot]com.
  • LES Breathe: Particulate monitoring near an area with heavy construction and plans to remove a East River Park in New York, which would reduce access to greenspace and likely exacerbate air quality. They recently hosted an air quality walking tour and are working with a data artist.
  • Indoor Ventilation and COVID Transmission in Schools: @crispinpierce is investigating methods to assess the adequacy of classroom ventilation in minimizing COVID transmission.
  • Frac Sand and PM Monitoring: Particulate monitoring with Purple Air sensors in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, a site with heavy frac sand mining that is emitting PM2.5 and radon. To subscribe to the Frac Sand Sentinel, email Pat Popple at This project could also use some technical help with joining weather and windspeed data with air quality data—reach out to @crispinpierce if you’re interested!
  • Sacramento Neighborhoods Activating on Air Quality (SNAAQ): Funded by a grant from the CA Air Resources Board, SNAAQ brings together community groups to place air quality monitors in CalEnvirScreen neighborhoods in Sacramento. The project involves four primary components: 1) air monitoring outreach and siting; 2) education; 3) community workshops; and 4) coalition building.
  • Lichen for Community Air Quality Monitoring: I’m kicking off a research project to pilot methods for community scientists to use lichen as a way to learn about their local air quality in an affordable way. If you’d like to get involved in collecting samples in your local community or serving as a subject matter expert, reach out to me at!

Shared Challenges and Open Questions

While the projects shared had different focuses, several had similar challenges, but they also had some project-specific questions. LES Brreathe, VVAMP, and SNAAQ are currently in the data collection stage and are thinking about the best way to present data in an engaging, informative way that supports advocacy or further research. Given that this a question of interest for many groups, we are encouraging more conversation (see this question about making environmental data personally meaningful) and inviting contributors to share guidance and tips (draft wiki page on data presentation) on the Public Lab site.

Another common challenge was how to obtain funding. This question collects organizations and grants that provide funding to community air quality projects. Ideas for minimizing costs include using open-source, DIY tools, identifying volunteers

Dr. Pierce wanted to understand more about various metrics for indoor ventilation and whether humidity could be a useful indicator of insufficient ventilation.

Pat and Dr. Pierce are also interested in ways to monitor radon in water and mitigate the effects of radon. There are radon test kits, but the existing ways of monitoring radon and piping it out of homes is very expensive.

Resources Shared

  • AERMOD, a publicly available EPA Gaussian plume dispersion program
  • Open Data NYC, a community driven festival showcasing work around open data, technology, and design. LES Breathe was featured in the Air Quality Panel!
  • Adapting City Lab is a research and design group creating urgent climate adaptation solutions for the post petroleum urban environment.

I learned a lot and was inspired by all the timely projects going on! Looking forward to updates, further collaboration, and more lively discussions in the future 😊


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