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.

NIH NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health Webinar on Community Air Sensors

The National Institutes of Health’s NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) program has long been a champion for community-engaged environmental health research.  Today’s webinar highlights the progress of two ongoing projects. PEPH’s description of the webinar is below:

 

Description

Residents in communities across the country are often curious or concerned about the quality of the air they breathe and how it may affect their health or the health of family and friends. While many locations have air monitors, those monitors are sometimes not in communities of concern. With the advent of smaller, low-cost sensors, residents have become increasingly engaged in monitoring the air quality in their neighborhoods so as to understand and reduce potential health risks.

This webinar will highlight two community-based air monitoring projects. The first is a collaboration among the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (a partnership of the California Department of Public Health and the Public Health Institute); the Comite Civico Del Valle Inc.; the University of Washington; the University of California, Los Angeles; and George Washington University. The second is a partnership between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Fairmount Greenway Task Force. The presenters will discuss their approaches, the benefits of those approaches, and future opportunities.

Presentations

The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network: A Model for Community-Based Environmental Monitoring for Public Health Action

Paul English, Ph.D., California Department of Public Health
Michelle Wong, California Department of Public Health
Edmund Seto, Ph.D., University of Washington
Luis Olmedo, Comite Civico del Valle

Wheels on the Ground: Citizen Science and the Fairmount Greenway

Ann Backus, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Traci Brown, Ph.D., Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Michelle Moon, Fairmount Greenway Task Force

If interested, there should be a recording of the webinar on PEPH’s website:
https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/translational/peph/webinars/index.cfm 

WA State Airport Community Air Quality Study

Sea-Tac airplane. Photo by Paul B. https://flic.kr/p/d8Er5u

As the population has grown in Seattle, so too has air traffic at the Sea-Tac International Airport.  According to the Port of Seattle’s statistics for 2016, over 45 million passengers traveled through Sea-Tac. These numbers are up 52% over historical passenger numbers from just 10 years ago.

Increasing air traffic has long been a concerned of residents in neighboring communities.  In particular, residents have been alarmed by the findings of recent studies conducted in other airport communities around the country that have documented elevated ultrafine PM levels along the flight paths near airports, such as LAX.  Yet, because no two airports are the same with respect to how planes land and take-off, the numbers of aircraft that fly in and out, meteorological conditions, local terrain, background air pollution levels, and where people live in relationship to flight paths, extrapolating from others studies to the Seattle context is challenging.

To address this concern and to provide much needed local data, over the next two years, the University of Washington will measure ultrafine PM concentrations in communities within a 10-mile region north and south of Sea-Tac.  The goal of this study will be to identify the extent to which ultrafine PM levels are elevated above background levels of PM.  This includes trying to differentiate aircraft-related PM from the other predominant sources of PM in the area, which include roadway traffic and wood smoke.

Measurements will be collected using a state-of-the-art mobile monitoring platform — a University of Washington car outfitted with high-end air monitoring instruments that can measure the size distribution and counts of ultrafine particles.  This vehicle will traverse the study area throughout the year, allowing the research team to map ultrafine PM levels, and relate the air pollution to varying amounts of air traffic and other factors that may affect ultrafine PM concentrations.

Identifying whether elevated ultrafine PM levels exist in communities around Sea-Tac airport is the first phase of a potentially broader investigation of exposures to aircraft-related pollution and its health effects.  A final report documenting this first phase will be delivered in December 2019.

To learn more about this study, feel free to contact the study leads:

Professor Edmund Seto, eseto@uw.edu
Professor Timothy Larson, tlarson@uw.edu

Historical Sea-Tac Passenger Volumes. https://public.tableau.com/profile/portofseattlebi#!/vizhome/Sea-TacAirportActivityReportTP/Cover

Update 9/28/2017:  A resident near the airport emailed me, noting that while passenger volume has trended up, flight operations peaked in 2000.  If you’d like to explore the data, they are available at: https://public.tableau.com/profile/portofseattlebi#!/vizhome/Sea-TacAirportActivityReportTP/Cover

 

 

San Ysidro Air Study launches website for real-time air quality monitoring data

The San Ysidro Air Study will be unveiling its new website on June 9, 2017 in an Open House event hosted by study collaborator, Casa Familiar.

This 2-year study funded by CalEPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) aims to improve community understanding of air quality at the US-Mexico border region through a community-engaged research process of collecting measurements from 13 next-generation air quality monitors.

The research team includes Casa Familiar, San Diego State University, and the University of Washington.  To learn more about this study, visit the study website, which has webinars, community meeting notes, and links to news stories: http://deohs.washington.edu/san-ysidro-air-quality-and-border-traffic-study

Our new website will provide residents and government agencies in San Ysidro with real-time air quality data in the form of maps and charts.  PM2.5, CO, NO, NO2, and O3 data will be available.  Also, concerned citizens and researchers may request access to historical data collected by the air quality monitoring network via the website.

Additionally, data from the San Ysidro monitoring are being provided to the Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) system for integrated air mapping and environmental reporting among different communities in California.

Our new San Ysidro Air Study data portal is http://www.syairstudy.org.

 

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of… Get’s our latest generation of Community Air Monitors

We’re installing our latest generation of Internet-connected community air monitors (PM particle sizer, 4 gas pollutants) this week in New York City as part of a new MESA study of cardiovascular health led by PI Joel Kaufman at the Unversity of Washington.

Special thanks to PhD student Graeme Carvlin for leading the team of undergrads that are building our current batch of monitors that will be installed in the 6 MESA cities this year, as well as the deployment team and our local collaborators in each of the cities.

These new monitors will enable the next generation of air pollution exposure assessments for multi-city epemiologic studies that are based on real-time, continous spatiotemporally rich environmental data.

Patent Application for a new passive low-cost air pollution sensor

PM air pollution is responsiblity for close to a million deaths and is associated with considerable poor health around the world.

Collaborators from UW Engineering and I filed a new patent for a “Passive Low-Cost Air Pollution Sensor”.  The invention will hopefully pave the way more accurate and precise assessments of PM levels in the developing world, using readily available and inexpensive supplies.

San Ysidro Community-Based Air Monitoring Study at the California-Mexico Border

Funded by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of CalEPA, my research group has partnered with Casa Familiar and San Diego State University to conduct a 2-year community-based air monitoring study in the San Ysidro community at the CA-Mexico border.

Motivated by the need to better inform CalEnviroScreen — an Environmental Justice tool developed by CalEPA to map communities disproportionately impacted by environmental health hazards, the study will combine local knowledge from community residents with air pollution monitoring tools and methods provided by academic partners to conduct a year of intensive monitoring within the border community.

Border communities, such as San Ysidro, may face air pollution impacts not felt by other CA communities and existing monitors may not be adequate to measure this impact. Being close to the international border may result in exposure to air pollution from lines of idling vehicles at the Ports of Entry, trade-related commercial trucks, and transport of pollutants from Mexico.

The study will leverage next-generation air quality sensors that measure PM2.5, PM10, CO, NO, NO2, and O3, with high-end research instruments and methods that measure BC, EC/OC, metals, and diesel markers.

The research team recently gave a webinar hosted by CalEPA that discussed Citizen Science, and specifically the goals of the San Ysidro study, the challenges and opportunities for academia and community residents to work together to improve understanding of air pollution in communities and to improve tools like CalEnviroScreen.

The first monitor in this new community monitoring network was officially launched on August 26, 2016.

More information about the study can be found on the project website:
http://deohs.washington.edu/san-ysidro-air-quality-and-border-traffic-study 

If you have questions, I’m the study PI:  eseto@uw.edu

 

UW awarded EPA Air Pollution Monitoring for Communities Grant

Yakama youth engaged in the EnviroMentors program talk to their congressman (photo from C. Karr)

A new grant from the EPA’s Air Pollution Monitoring for Communities program will enable University of Washington air pollution researchers to partner with the Yakima Valley’s Heritage University faculty whose undergraduates represent the community’s population of predominately Yakama Nation and Latino immigrants. Working with local students, the partners aim to address key scientific questions pertaining to woodsmoke exposures, health effects, and interventions in Yakima. The group will use both sophisticated research instruments as well as next-generation low-cost sensors for use in these collaborative studies, and explore effective strategies for data dissemination and communication to the broader community. A goal of the project is to engage Heritage students to be community problem-solvers, using air quality monitoring information to address issues of woodsmoke air pollution that are responsive to multi-generational and multi-cultural perspectives and concerns.

The project is expected to produce a new air pollution curriculum adaptable for use in other mentored student research settings incorporating use of next-generation sensors. The investigators expect 90 high school students and 12 undergraduates to benefit from the new curriculum over the course of the study.

The principal investigator of the project is UW Professor, Catherine Karr.  Collaborators on the study include Jessica Black from Heritage University, and UW faculty Tim Larson, Edmund Seto, Chris Simpson, and Michael Yost.

The Seto Lab will be responsible for developing the next-generation sensor platform for monitoring woodsmoke for the project.

UW’s grant is one of six awarded in US EPA’s Air Pollution Monitoring for Communities program.  

My NIEHS Webinar: Environmental Sensors, Citizen Science, and Quantified Self


On April 5, I gave a webinar “Sensor Technologies for Improving Environmental Health: Juxtaposing the Citizen Science and Quantified Self Movements”.  Thanks to all who attended, and especially to those who provided questions/feedback on my group’s work.  Here’s the abstract:

In recent years, numerous sensor technologies have been developed that offer the ability to collect detailed data on environmental conditions and their impact on human health. These technologies will likely change how communities and individuals access environmental health information, and the amount of data that are available for improved decision-making.

An example of the potential impact of emerging sensor technology can be seen through the development of low-cost direct-reading air pollution monitors many of which are now commercially available.  While researchers continue to conduct studies to answer the fundamental question of “how well do these new devices perform?,” perhaps the more intriguing question is “if useful air pollution data could be obtained from a device that many people could afford, how would this change our understanding of air pollution-related health?”

This webinar will discuss multiple answers to this question, including how community groups, Citizen Science, epidemiologic researchers and individuals may benefit from these new sensors.

One answer to the above question is that community-based environmental groups may have better access to monitoring technologies to document environmental injustices. In some respects, this is not entirely new, as community groups have for many years documented their local knowledge of air pollution levels in much more detail than what was possible through government monitoring efforts. The difference now, is that monitors are more readily available for these groups to collect their own objective measurements. Because of the low cost of each monitor, it is not implausible to imagine entire communities blanketed with a high density of air pollution sensors. And, in fact, NIEHS-funded research is demonstrating that such community-engaged monitoring networks are possible.

Slightly different from the community-initiated and led research described above, new air pollution technologies are enabling a new form of environmental research within our communities, called Citizen Science. While there are different models for conducting Citizen Science, the more intriguing examples are those that are organized over the Internet, involve many individuals who work together to crowdsource data, and result in massive amounts of data that are shared openly. In some cases, technology-savvy Citizen Science leaders are developing and sharing their designs for new monitors, providing proof of concept for how measurements can be made with low-cost sensors.

Another possible answer to the above question is that an increasing number of environmental epidemiology studies may use sensors to conduct personal exposure assessments. Sensors are not only getting cheaper, but also battery-powered and are getting smaller in size, making them increasingly practical for use in a variety of cohort studies. An exciting example of NIH support for this is the new Pediatric Research Using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems (PRISMS) program, within which various research groups are developing new wearable sensors that can measure environmental exposures that can be related to health symptoms for future children’s asthma studies. An exciting aspect of the PRISMS program is the recognition that future sensors will likely need to be network-enabled, which would provide more immediate data from research subjects, as well as also enable more immediate feedback to research subjects.

While NIH programs like PRISMS are fostering future sensor technologies for epidemiologic research, the private sector is also commercializing air pollution monitors for the consumer health and wellness market. Smart technologies (e.g., smartphone apps, smart watches, fitness trackers, GPS loggers, etc.) used to be primarily marketed to the Quantified Self movement – individuals who use devices and data to track and optimize various aspects of their life – air pollution monitors being just one of latest devices that such an individual may want to use. But, there is a large group of individuals who have pre-existing health conditions and may be susceptible to air pollution exposures, which may be interested in understanding their air pollution exposures by either having a household or wearable monitor. While these individuals may be the greatest market for these new air pollution monitors, it remains unclear how people will respond to personalized air pollution exposure data (e.g., what are the best ways to communicate individual-based air pollution exposures and risks?), or whether people have practical ways to manage their exposures.

In summary, the recent developments in low-cost air pollution monitoring devices illustrate various opportunities for improving environmental health through sensor technologies. The benefits to traditional community-based and epidemiologic research studies are somewhat clear, with new monitoring devices potentially providing data for more persons, places, and times than previously possible. Less clear, but no less exciting because of the reach and numbers of people potentially involved, are the novel ways in which new air pollution monitors are being adopted into Citizen Science and consumer health and wellness applications.

More, and an eventual link to Youtube can be found here:
https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/conference/exposome_webinar/