More people in the Charlotte region are starting to think about air quality. New, low cost, portable technology is allowing people to monitor our air in real time, for fine particulate matter also known as PM2.5. Clean Air Carolina (CAC) has purchased some of these air monitors and is working with students, community groups and interested citizens to monitor air quality in the Charlotte region. It is making invisible air pollution, visible.
July 12, 2016 was CAC’s first citizen science engagement using the AirBeam, a mobile air monitor and an AirCasting app which lets people see the PM2.5 they encountered in uptown Charlotte. J.D. Doliner and her daughter Maya were there taking part, learning about air quality monitoring. Being able to see what is normally invisible, allows people to understand pollution sources in our air. This knowledge can empower people to change behavior to avoid these harmful pollutants and to work toward minimizing them in our community.
In December CAC hosted a Making Air Visible program, with national speakers from the EPA and ACLIMA, talking about designing cities to reduce human contact with hyperlocal pollution sources. Piedmont Open IB Middle School teacher, Maranda Thornburg was there with one of her students and his family. The program inspired the student to want to learn more.
January of this year (2017), CAC hosted an AirKeeper Training at Piedmont Middle School for interested students and adults. Participants learned why we should care about air quality and how it affects health. Then with a partner, they learned how to monitor the air for PM2.5 using an AirBeam monitor. They also learned how to view to data collected on the AirCasting website at AirCasting.org. Several students are planning science investigations of air quality on their school campus. Some of the adults are planning to become AirKeepers to assist with these projects.
AirKeepers use cutting edge technology to monitor the air in real time to learn more about hyperlocal air pollution in the Charlotte region. Local regulatory air quality monitors are few and far between, and they just give us an average reading. CAC’s AirKeeper program will help scientists get a more complete picture of what local air quality looks like. Are PM2.5 levels the same in all areas of Charlotte? Citizen scientists like these CAC AirKeepers, will help us find out.
Would you like to become an AirKeeper, or try air monitoring? Contact CAC at www.CleanAirCarolina.org to get involved!