In 2019, the Ecology Center's Environmental Education and HealthyStuff programs launched a community-based science program to monitor air quality with low-cost air monitors.  The program works with schools and community partners to install and generate local air quality data which is used to educate students and community members.  

The program currently uses three types of air monitors:  twenty PurpleAir particulate matter (PM) monitors; three Aeroqual Micro Air Quality Monitors; and one Series 500 - Portable Multi-pollutant Air Quality Monitor.

About our monitoring network

Boggs School Monitor

Our current school partners in Detroit include the Grace Lee Boggs School, 4141 Mitchell St., Detroit;  University Prep Academy High School, 610 Antoinette St, Detroit, and the Clippert Multicultural Magnet Honors Academy,1981 McKinstry St., Detroit.  Each school is conducted pilot programs with students in April and May of 2019.  The schools all have both an indoor and outdoor monitor. This allows student to analyze differences between indoor and outdoor PM levels.

Other monitors have been installed outside homes and businesses in areas near the schools to provide a broader assessment if the local air quality for students to analyze.


Detroit Area Monitors

Washtenaw County Monitors

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is a mix of solid particles and gasses in the air that can cause harm to people. Ozone and particulate matter are two dangerous types of air pollution. Ozone is produced when oxygen, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine in the presence of sunlight. The sources of nitrogen oxide and VOCs come from car engine exhaust, industrial emissions and combustion, gasoline vaports, paints, and chemical solutions.

What is Particulate Matter?

Particulate Matter (PM) is the small, solid material suspended in the air taht is albe to enter our airways when breathing. PM is classified based on the size of the particles. PM2.5 is the small enough to be carried into the bloodstream throught the delicate lungs. The larger PM10 settles in our sinuses and air passages because the particles are too big to pass through lung tissue. Major sources of PM pollution are fires, burning waste, exhaust, industrial processes, and windblown particles in dry environments, such as dust from agricultural fields.

How Does Air Pollution Harm Human Health?

  • damage to lung tissue*
  • respiratory infections
  • inflammation of airways
  • asthma and bronchitis
  • chronic lung disease, COPD
  • premature death
  • lung cancer
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • cognitive aging
  • type II diabetes

*Children exposed to air pollution are particularly sensitive to decreased lung function.

What Can I Do About Air Pollution?

  1. If you see or smell air pollution, call the 24-hour Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS): 1-800-292-4706 to report concerns.
  2. Contact or 313-288-0613. We can connect you with local organizations taking action for clean air or help you get involved with monitoring. Ways to get involved:
    1. Adopt a Monitor: Visually check-in on a monitor and let us know if a problem arises.
    2. Host a gathering: Host friends and neighbors to discuss a learn more about air qualtiy.
    3. Learn more: Learn how to interpret the monitor data and share with your community. 

Why Have Community Monitors?

  • Air pollution has health impacts and some communites suffer more from poor air quality.
  • Current air pollution standards and monitoring requirements are inadequate to protect health. Community monitors help to document how current policies are failing to protect health.
  • Official air monitors are spaced too far apart to provide information at neighborhood level and miss "hot spots" of concern.
  • Local residents are better able to
    • Ask questions about the air affecting everyday life
    • Raise community awareness and advocate for improved air quality policies.

What Do Monitors Look Like?

Purple Air brand PM sensors are mounted on structures. Monitors are about the size of a softball with a rounded top and flat bottom. They communicate information about air conditions wirelessly to an online database.

How accurate is the data from Purple Air monitors?

The Purple Air monitors are not calibrated to meet legal monitoring standards, but do provide high quality information to indentify issues of concern and opportunities for community-led action.

The Ecology Center project is placing some Purple Air monitors at established government monitoring stations to measure how our data compares to official air pollution readings.

Published on April 30, 2019


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