Citizen science for air quality

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-10-40-43-amWith binders, pens and a large backpack strewn across a bright blue bus stop bench, two “citizen scientists” prepare their materials near the Beyer Court Apartments in Portland’s Lents neighborhood. Izzy unzips the backpack and carefully turns on a “micro-aetholometer” that measures tiny particles in the air similar to what he is breathing. Izzy and his colleague Adriana each open a binder and begin taking notes on passing people, on traffic, and on the sights and sounds and lifestyles in the neighborhood.

Izzy and Adriana are Americorps Fellows with Green Lents, working on a collaborative project between OEC, Green Lents and Rose Community Development (see more). The organizations are piloting a citizen science project that helps paint a clearer picture of how people experience air pollution in their daily lives. The lead investigators are two interns from Rose Community Development’s Lents Youth Initiative, a summer internship program. Izzy works with the youth to identify important locations to study, and to supervise them in the use of the equipment.
Izzy has long been concerned about air quality in Lents, which is split by high traffic screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-35-38-pmcorridors including the I-205 freeway, Foster Road, SE 82nd Avenue, and Powell Boulevard. It’s clear just from looking around that heavy duty trucks, buses and construction vehicles are common in the neighborhood. But what does that mean for the air people bscreen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-30-10-pmreathe when they spend time waiting for the bus, playing in the park, or living near these roads? We’re hoping to create a clearer picture by measuring pollution, even as we try to better understand how people live their lives in the neighborhood. If community members know more about the presence of diesel pollution and the serious health hazards it can pose, we’re hopeful that they’ll have what they need to advocate for local and state-wide solutions.

OEC’s new Dirt on Diesel report takes a closer look at what we know about diesel pollution in Oregon and about the potential health costs from that pollution. Our staff have also been part of a legislative “work group” hashing out what an Oregon program might look like to get the oldest dirty engines off the road and replaced by vastly cleaner ones. We have some ideas for what might work in the 2017 legislative session. In the meantime, you can help: sign the petition to tell legislators that it is time to invest in clean air for our state.

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