This project aimed to investigate exposure to both heat and air pollution (fine particulates), and the differences between indoor and outdoor exposure. The goal was to have students act as "citizens," providing them with low-cost air pollution and temperature sensors to make measurements in their homes and daily lives (by carrying the sensors) to assess their exposure. An additional objective was to develop a teaching module to enhance the students' understanding and awareness of air and heat issues.
The project began with a detailed market survey of sensors, the selection of sensors, and extensive testing to determine which would be used. The Atmotube sensors proved to be highly portable, provided consistent measurements, and were chosen for the study. However, when the project began recruiting its first student cohort, substantial logistics challenges were encountered in the post-Covid era, including supply chain issues and the lack of availability of good quality sensors like the Atmotubes. Alternative additional sensors were tested but failed to meet project needs. Finally, when the sensors became available again, at a substantially higher cost, the summer/heat period was missed, and the focus shifted towards a smaller cohort and PM2.5 in the absence of heat. The scientific insights were interesting, albeit preliminary. When students carried a sensor on them at all times, vs. using an in-house monitor, or compared to the air quality monitoring network data, we saw on aggregate that for active students, the network showed a reasonable exposure range but did not capture substantially higher indoor concentrations in some individuals' homes. The indoor home environments showed substantial variability with some homes having at times alarming PM2.5 levels, stressing the need for indoor air pollution mitigation measures. Future research will address these issues. The main outcome, however, is that the sensors proved to be efficient and fit for exposure studies. The protocols for having individuals carry the sensors, checking them on their cellphone, and having a matching sensor left in their house, proved to work, and future, larger-scale studies can build upon this. A summer deployment will allow for heat measurements to be included.
The development of a teaching model that incorporates the sensors for citizens (high school students, grades 9-12) has been completed. A lesson plan was developed that includes four lessons, a PowerPoint presentation to instruct teachers and students as well as student and teacher notes. These materials were also included in a module for a college level environmental chemistry lab class.
July 2021-December 2022
Healthy Urban Environments