EPA Grants Fund Researchers Working with Communities to Monitor Air Pollution in Washington and Pennsylvania

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Reducing air pollution levels takes the effort of an entire community. At least that’s the opinion of Catherine Karr, a professor at the University of Washington (UW), and principal investigator of an air pollution study in the lower Yakima Valley in Washington State.

This agricultural valley has historically experienced high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a common air pollutant, especially in the winter during cold stagnant air periods. Major sources of PM2.5 include residential wood-burning heaters and agricultural burning. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 can cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness and lead to decreased lung function, irregular heartbeat, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and premature death.

Dr. Karr’s air pollution study is funded by an Air Pollution Monitoring in for Communities grant from EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program. The grants, awarded to six universities and research institutions across the country, are providing researchers with the opportunity to investigate emerging air monitoring technology and to work with communities to address air quality problems. While low-cost and portable air sensor technology is becoming readily available to the public, there is limited knowledge on how communities and individuals are using the technology, the accuracy of the data they produce, how the sensors perform over time, and what is needed to help inform future sensor use.

To evaluate the use of low-cost air pollution sensors by communities, research scientists at the UW are partnering with Heritage University. Heritage students reflect the diversity of the community, including Yakama Nation, Native Americans of other tribes, and Latino immigrant families.

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