by Calvin Cupini
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has!” -Margaret Mead
Under a rain-soaked water tower and just beyond the old boiler of a munitions factory, prospective citizen scientists gathered in a dimly-lit room with snacks and wet umbrellas. Volunteers steadily filled the room, unphased by the pouring rain and unfamiliar location. Some were parents, some were teachers, and some were leaders of the faith community. They were eager for an opportunity to participate in a unique and groundbreaking international research project in citizen science.
Over 20 AirKeepers attended a workshop last month to take part in a special partnership with researcher Anna Shadrova of the University of Toronto-Mississauga. Everyone was invited to share their background and interest in air quality issues in the region, before listening to a description of the research project. Volunteers received special “passive gas samplers” for nitrogen dioxide and ozone they installed both outside and inside their homes. The samplers were set out for two weeks, then packaged and sent back to Toronto where Anna will run chemical analyses to determine the exposure levels over those two weeks.
By comparing and modeling the regions and conditions from a number of study areas, Anna will better understand how these gases interact with one another both outdoors and indoors. For decades, most air quality research has focused on ambient, outdoor conditions, even as people spend less and less time outdoors. This research can help us understand how air quality inside our homes affects health.
Thanks to innovative partnerships like this, researchers are able to connect communities with more information and shed a light on important scientific questions, empowering communities to make a difference in their local environment.