Community Air Monitoring
Author: Sergio Valenzuela, Air Monitoring Technician
Living in the Imperial Valley my entire life, it gives me a strange feeling when I look back and realize that growing up in the area bad air-quality was just the norm and simply what we lived with every day. As a kid, you never think much of it.
The majority of my cousins had asthma; I had asthma. And we were told, "You’ll grow out of it, just run more." That was never the case.
The Imperial Valley is vast in size with many sources of air pollution. I believe that makes it more difficult to have a healthy life.
As a parent, taking action to improve air quality is a must, and as an air monitoring technician I hear from community members talking about their need for air monitoring. Their concerns are real. My concerns as a parent are real, as well.
This is why I’m happy about the deployment of 40 low-cost air monitors throughout Imperial County. They will collect particulate matter (PM) data and display real-time community air-quality levels on the IVAN Air website and app, tools readily available to everyone. This project was put together by Comite Civico del Valle, in partnership with Tracking California, University of Washington, and concerned community members.
I want to share some of the features and characteristics of these monitors. First of all, they’re built to endure the extreme Imperial County temperatures and provide internet connectivity. Durable, fiberglass enclosures house and protect equipment that makes the IVAN Air Network possible. The Dylos DC 1700, a laser particle counter, provides the PM data. This sensor connects directly to a microcontroller that has sensors for temperature and relative humidity. The microcontroller processes data collected from all 3 sensors through an algorithm created by University of Washington connects to the internet by either Wi-Fi or Ethernet and uploads the data directly for viewing onto the IVAN Air servers.
I know that’s a lot of scientific and technical talk for a lot of people, but it’s important to know that air quality monitoring is being taken seriously and scientifically. And why is that important? Because air quality can seriously impact all aspects of our health.
Studies show that bad air quality can cause short-term eye, nose and throat irritation as well as headaches, dizziness and fatigue. It can increase or worsen the effects of asthma, particularly in children. It can lead to respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease or even cancer.
That’s why in a community that struggles with poor ambient air quality levels, a tool such as the IVAN Network is vital in bringing awareness and taking action. Reducing exposures, creating emissions reduction plans, inspiring similar projects, are just a few benefits to having this data.
As an air-monitoring technician, it gives me a great feeling to provide a service to the same community I grew up in. It gives me a sense of pride to create air-quality awareness and provide tools for which will contribute to the betterment of future generations, my own children included.
I believe it’s vital to educate our communities regarding air quality and the impact it has. Together we can achieve the dream of an Imperial Valley with clean air.