We place robots and sensors in communities to help people better understand (and hopefully empower them to do something about) their environment. We are involved in the development of the public health project described below, currently going after funding. This is how I got to take home some air sensors to play with. Since this project is about awareness, I decided to share my findings with others as I go.
Dror Yaron, Community Outreach
From a proposal the PEMC group (Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center) @ UPMC has just put together:
DOOR TO DOOR (DTD) was conceptualized in collaboration with the Group Against Smog and Air Pollution (GASP), a non profit local organization with 40 years of experience working to reduce air pollution in the Pittsburgh areaand the CREATE laboratory of Carnegie Mellon, an organization that conducts community projects in Braddock.
The municipality of Braddock, once a thriving steel industry, sits along the east edge of the Monongahela River just 20 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh; this community faces many environmental challenges, including high outdoor levels of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 (Particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 µm). In fact, Braddock and its nearby surroundings have been labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as non attainment areas, and the PM2.5 levels here partly explain why Pittsburgh has been ranked #1 in the US by the American Lung Association among cities with short-term highest particulate pollution. Because Braddock is located in the Mon Valley, a geographical area of intertwined hills and valleys, thermal inversions typically produce PM2.5 peak concentrations as high as 180 µg/m. The heavy local traffic flow of trucks heading in and out of its steel mill exposes the population to high Diesel exhaust particles (DEP), which is particularly harmful for children with asthma. Exposure to PM2.5 and DEP or black carbon (BC) is associated with increased airway inflammation, increased risk for asthma exacerbation and reduced lung function. Given the prevailing high average levels of particulate air pollution and the high rates of asthma prevalence in Braddock (Approximately 25% of children), the community of Braddock has organized focus groups of concerned parents and neighbors to increase environmental health awareness, improve quality of life and reduce air pollution exposure. Specifically, the Braddock community is concerned about children’s exposure to particulate air pollution on streets and playgrounds and in relation to Diesel emitting vehicles, including school buses. Our main objective is to develop a personal monitoring network driven by community concerns and observations in Braddock Pennsylvania in order to:
a) assess exposure of asthmatic children to fine particulate matter and traffic emissions.
b) to reduce the exposure level and health burden associated with these pollutants.