The Beacon Hill Noise Team — Community Scientists Quantify Noise Pollution in Seattle

Thanks to a community microgrant from the Verity Credit Union this summer, we were able to kickstart the Beacon Hill Noise Study.

Over the last year, I have been hearing from residents of the Beacon Hill community in Seattle, about noise issues.  Beacon Hill is surrounded by freeways and major thoroughfares, and has airplane traffic at SeaTac flying overhead.  The community is struggling to address the noise pollution.

In the Summer of 2017, with considerable community support and encouragement, we applied for, but were unsuccessful in obtaining funding from the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority Nimble Fund.  This was very disappointing news for the residents.

Although discouraged by the results of the PHPDA proposal, we wrote an announcement to the community, which was distributed via social media in the Fall of 2017. In the announcment, we asked if people with specific skills would be willing to donate their own time to become “community scientists” to conduct a noise assessment study.  Serious about forming an effective research team, we recruited residents with particular skills, including leadership, organizing, project management, field work, data analysis, and communication. We formed a small group in the Winter of 2017-18, and using one noise monitor that I donated to the group, we started the Beacon Hill Noise Study.

“Citizen science” has been an effective strategy for gathering environmental data for research. Whereas these efforts are usually structured so that lay people (citizen scientists) help traditional academic scientists collect data, our approach towards “community science” emphasizes the role of community members as scientists, with only academics providing advice.

The recent community microgrant from the Verity Credit Union (with Beacon Hill Merchants Association as our fiscal sponsor) allowed us to purchase additional monitors for the study. We also recently received a grant from the US EPA (through the community-based organization El Centro de la Raza), which has allowed us to hire two part-time student interns from the University of Washington this Summer 2018 to help residents collect noise measurements. Both our interns are undergraduate students studying in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

Beacon Hill Noise Team Student Interns

As a resident-led study without its own organization, we have been fortunate to be able to work with other established community organizations to raise funds.  Moreover, because of tremendous volunteer effort, the costs associated with collecting noise measurements has been quite modest.  A decent noise monitor and calibrator can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.  With the modest funding we have raised thus far, we have collected nearly 300 MB of noise data with 2 noise monitors.

Our goal is collect 24-hour noise measurements at outdoor locations throughout Beacon Hill. So far we have approximately 60 residents who have signed up, with interest in having noise measurements collected at their home.

As we continue to collect data and compute noise summary measures, such as 24-hour LEQ, LDN, and LDEN dBA levels, we intend to make these results publically available via an open access license. Our initial goals are modest, as we simply want to collect sufficient data to have a meaningul discussion about appropriate next steps for the study.  However, as we progress, we hope that the data may help connect residents with other nosie pollution stakeholders to move towards collective action to educate and build awareness, conduct futher research, and identify strategies for reducing noise pollution.

For more information about the project, contact Dr. Roseanne Lorenzana at contact@chacusa.org

 

Bitesome Team presents diet and nutrition tracking app at NIH mHealth Technology Showcase

Team Bitesome

The new Bitesome diet and nutrition tracking app was presented at the NIH mHealth Tech Showcase on June 4, 2018.

Part of the NIH MD2K initiative, the Tech Showcase highlighted recent advances in mHealth technologies and methods.

https://mhealth.md2k.org/2018-tech-showcase-home

Our poster illustrated the architecture of our app, and usage of cloud services, and real-time databases specifically, for managing large numbers of users.  We also document our use of food database API for nutritient content information.

Bitesome is currently available for use on the Android and iOS stores.  Visit the Bitesome.mobi website to learn more about the app.

PDF of our poster Research Symposium Poster FINAL_small

 

Imperial study influences passage of AB 617 for Community Air Monitoring in California

As the NIEHS-funded research to establish a network of community-operated PM monitors in Imperial, CA comes to an end this year, efforts have been made to ensure the sustainability of the network.

The team was recognized by the CA State Assembly and Senate on April 26th for the work in Imperial.  Also the work has influenced AB 617, a new rule which was approved by the state legislature in 2017, which requires air districts to implement community and fenceline air monitoring in communities that are classified as highly disadvantaged based on their environmental exposures and impacts as well as social disparities.

Whereas my research group at UW was involved in the development of the network, and managing QA/QC of the data from the monitors during the study, we have transitioned our knowledge of the monitoring to Comite Civico del Valle, who are currently sustaining the monitoring network and are in charge of the data.

 

US EPA meeting to discuss performance targets for non-regulatory air quality sensors

Over 800 people participated in the June 25-26, 2018 US EPA Air Sensors 2018 meeting, in which performance targets for non-regulatory air quality sensors were discussed.

In recent years, the use of low-cost sensors has grown considerably. Yet, the quality associated with these sensors is not fully known, or is highly variable between different makes/models of sensor, and depends greatly on how the sensors are operated.  Would the establishment of performance targets potential improve the quality of low-cost air quality sensors for non-regulatory applications?

The European Union has made great strides recently to evaluate and form a working group to establish performance targets for air quality sensors.

The US EPA meeting, presentations highlighted recent studies that describe the (good) performance that has been found with current particle matter sensors and ozone sensors, which has allowed for them to be used in a variety of studies and use cases.

In my presentation on “apples to apples vs apples to oranges performance testing”, I first discussed the relative merits of controlled laboratory testing of sensors, which would allow for consistent testing conditions, easy third party verification of testing results, and potentially less uncertain, lower cost, and timely results, and “apples to apples” comparisons between sensor makes/models.  Next, I discussed the importance of field testing in real-world applications that present numerous practical challanges for manufacturers, yet provides reassurance for users that sensors would likely work under real-world scenarios. These field tests would acknowleddge that different use cases in different field settings offer a challenges “apples to oranges” variety of conditions.  If sensors are able to perform well under such challenging and varied testing conditions, they’d likely be useful for non-regulatory applications.

On the 3rd day, smaller panel deliberated the relative merits of sensor evaluation, performance targets, binary vs tiered certification, and other issues.  We are working on a document that would provide summarize some of the perspectives we have on the subject.