Engage, Educate, and Empower California Communities on the Use and Applications of “Low-cost” Air Monitoring Sensors

EPA Grant Number: R836184
Title: Engage, Educate, and Empower California Communities on the Use and Applications of “Low-cost” Air Monitoring Sensors
Investigators: Polidori, Andrea , Dye, Timothy S , Fine, Philip M. , Tisopulos, Laki , Zhu, Yifang
Institution: South Coast Air Quality Management District , Sonoma Technology Inc.(STI) , University of California - Los Angeles
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2019
Project Amount: $749,820
RFA: Air Pollution Monitoring for Communities (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Air , Particulate Matter

Objective:

The overall objective of the proposed research is to provide local California communities with the knowledge necessary to appropriately select, use, and maintain “low-cost” sensors and to correctly interpret sensor data. This will be accomplished by pursuing the following four specific aims: (1) Develop new methodologies to educate and engage communities on the use and applications of “lowcost” sensors; (2) Conduct testing to characterize the performance of commercially available “low-cost” sensors and to identify candidates for field deployment; (3) Deploy the selected sensors in California communities, and interpret the collected data; and (4) Communicate the lessons learned to the public through a series of outreach activities.

Approach:

We will develop a toolkit containing informational material about sensors and best practices for data collection and interpretation (Aim 1). The toolkit will promote appropriate use of air quality sensors and help communities use sensors to answer questions about air quality. We will perform a thorough performance characterization of currently available “low-cost” sensors using both field and laboratory based testing (Aim 2). In the field, air quality sensors will be operated side-by-side with instruments routinely used to measure air pollutants concentrations for regulatory purposes. A “characterization chamber” will be used to challenge the sensors with known concentrations of different particle and gaseous pollutants under different temperature and relative humidity conditions. Sensors that have demonstrated acceptable performance will then be deployed at six communities throughout California (Aim 3). We will specifically target communities in Environmental Justice areas and near specific sources of air pollution. Regular public meetings and other outreach activities will be organized to educate the public on the capabilities of commercially available sensors and their potential applications and limitations (Aim 4). All data collected, documentation developed, and testing results will be posted online on a dedicated website and shared with the community for free.

Expected Results:

The implementation of these specific aims will help identify strengths and weaknesses of utilizing low-cost air sensors in communicating air quality matters to impacted communities and develop more refined sensor deployment strategies that would help ensure the successful engagement of communities in future deployment projects. More specifically, it will allow individuals to become more familiar with specific air quality issues affecting their communities and will empower them with the knowledge and experience they need to take action to avoid air pollution exposure, using “low-cost” portable air pollution sensors. Results from this study will also help governmental organizations and other policy makers to better understand air quality issues at the community level and to make better policy decisions to protect the public from the impacts of air pollution.

Supplemental Keywords:

community education, community empowerment, sensor testing, sensor measurements, data interpretation, public outreach;