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  • Writer's pictureTerraGraphics International Foundation

Air Quality Monitoring for Environmental Health

Updated: Apr 18

Air quality refers to the concentration of solid particles and chemical pollutants in the air. The higher the concentration of particles and pollutants, the more dangerous it is to health and the environment.

Because air is always moving, air quality can change from day to day or one hour to the next. For a specific location, air quality is a direct result of an area’s unique environmental factors and how people influence the air. Wind, temperature, sunshine, and precipitation can all affect pollutant concentrations, along with geographic formations such as mountain ranges and coastlines. Likewise, human activity, such as modifying the land, vehicle exhaust, coal-burning, and toxic gasses from industry, impacts air quality.

Why Monitor Air Quality?

Air quality monitoring is an important tool for research and development. It can help identify air contamination sources, monitor climate change, and improve air quality. It is an important part of the assessment and monitoring work TIFO does in the regions we support. The data allows us to determine health and environmental impacts, compliance with certain air quality standards, and inform intervention strategies to reduce health burdens in those communities. The benefits of this are two-fold. Local health workers are better informed on the immediate air quality impacting their patients, which allows them to educate specific patients who might be more sensitive to poor air quality, as well as the general public. Over time, historical data can help identify correlations between air quality events and meteorological conditions.

TIFO uses PurpleAir monitors because we can track real-time air quality at our project sites around the globe from anywhere we have internet service. We also love increasing public, open access to air quality data in the communities we support. These sensors also provide valuable measurements of atmospheric conditions such as temperature and humidity, often unavailable in these remote regions due to a lack of local meteorological data.

PurpleAir Monitors

Traditionally, most of the air monitoring networks in the United States were designed and operated by Tribal, state, or local governments. While public data is available from some of these sources, it is limited to where these agencies have set up monitors. PurpleAir makes air quality information accessible to everyone, cultivating community science and individual self-determination regarding localized air quality.

PurpleAir monitors can be purchased by anyone (for a relatively inexpensive price of a couple of hundred dollars) and installed anywhere there is internet and power available. Once setup and registered with PurpleAir, the air monitor becomes part of a global network of data available to anyone. No advanced skill is needed. If you can navigate to a website, you can view global, real-time air conditions from wherever there is a PurpleAir monitor.

TIFO has installed three sensors in Karakalpakstan and two in Kyrgyzstan. We will install two more on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in the summer of 2024.

Air quality monitoring infographic with the title, "What is PurpleAir? And how TIFO uses it."

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