2017 Progress Report: Democratization of Measurement and Modeling Tools for Community Actionon Air Quality, and Improved Spatial Resolution of Air Pollutant Concentrations

EPA Grant Number: R836286
Title: Democratization of Measurement and Modeling Tools for Community Actionon Air Quality, and Improved Spatial Resolution of Air Pollutant Concentrations
Investigators: Ramachandran, Subramanian , Pandis, Spyros N. , Presto, Albert , Downs, Julie
Current Investigators: Presto, Albert , Pandis, Spyros N. , Ramachandran, Subramanian
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2019 (Extended to April 30, 2021)
Project Period Covered by this Report: May 1, 2017 through April 30,2018
Project Amount: $749,945
RFA: Air Pollution Monitoring for Communities (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Air , Particulate Matter


  1. Develop portable bipollutant fine particulate matter (PM2.5)/gas monitors and stationary multipollutant (particulate matter [PM] + four criteria gases + volatile organic compounds) monitors; characterize their response to different primary and secondary pollutant mixtures; and test the reliability of these monitors under a variety of environmental conditions.
  2. Enable environmental justice and biking communities to monitor their pollutant exposure using portable monitors and a new Pittsburgh Air Quality Map (PAQmap), the interfaces of which will be designed with input from a Community Advisory Board.
  3. Study the interactions between community members and risk information in the form of personal monitoring and interaction with a pollution map.
  4. Examine the spatial representativeness of the existing air pollution monitoring network in Allegheny County using distributed monitoring and both statistical and chemical transport (PMCAMx) modeling.
  5. Examine the effect of community-inspired solutions to reduce air pollution exposure. The Community Advisory Board can suggest “what-if” scenarios for PMCAMx runs, such as widespread retrofits of public transport buses with diesel particulate filters and emissions reductions at large industrial sources in Allegheny County.

Progress Summary:

  1. Developed new generalized calibration algorithms to convert electrochemical sensor responses from the “Real-time Affordable Multi-Pollutant” (RAMP) monitors to ambient gas concentrations and tested their long-term performance.
  2. Two types of low-cost PM sensors (Met-One neighborhood PM and PurpleAir monitors) were extensively evaluated by collocation with regulatory BAMs, and correction factors were developed for these sensors. The accuracy of the data from these sensors was also evaluated for both short-term (1 hour) and long-term (1 year) averages.
  3. About 50 RAMPs were deployed across the Pittsburgh area, including in target environmental justice communities (Clairton, Braddock, Millvale), coupled with other grants. After about a year of data collection, several RAMPs were dismantled; about 25 RAMPs remain operational.
  4. RAMPs were also deployed in Puerto Rico and Connecticut.
  5. Online (Amazon mTurk) and in-person (either one-on-one or at Open Streets events) surveys were conducted to better understand community and individual perceptions about air quality and get input on data visualization and risk communication.
  6. Community partners Group Against Smog and Pollution and Clean Water Fund conducted extensive outreach efforts and also participated in RAMP maintenance.
  7. Preliminary results and progress were presented at different workshops and conferences.

Future Activities:

  1. About 25 RAMPs are deployed in the Pittsburgh area, and new sites are added as needed.
  2. Now that a pollution map is nearly final and can be publicly viewed, further in-person and online risk communication and user behavior surveys will be conducted in Year 3.
  3. We are evaluating two portable monitors for mobile mapping by bicycle commuters: (a) a portable RAMP (optical PM sensor + one gas sensor, CO or NO2); (b) the UPAS developed by Colorado State University, which has an optical PM sensor and a filter-based integrated PM sampler.
  4. Results will be presented at the 2018 International Aerosol Conference, the International Society of Exposure Science/International Society for Environmental Epidemiology 2018 Joint Annual Meeting, and the Air Sensors International Conference. Several publications are in the works for Year 3.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 21 publications 12 publications in selected types All 12 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Zimmerman N, Presto AA, Kumar SPN, Gu J, Hauryliuk A, Robinson ES, Robinson AL, Subramanian R. A machine learning calibration model using random forests to improve sensor performance for lower-cost air quality monitoring. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 2018;11(1):291-313. R836286 (2017)
R836286 (2018)
R836286 (2019)
R836286 (Final)
R835873 (2017)
R835873 (2018)
R835873 (2020)
  • Full-text: EGU-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: EGU-Abstract
  • Other: Harvard University-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    vehicular exhaust, coke ovens, personal exposure, urban pollution

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report
  • 2019 Progress Report
  • Final Report