Environmental Justice Dangers from Hyper-Native Monitoring are Exaggerated – Watts Up With That?

Environmental Justice Risks from Hyper-Local Monitoring are Exaggerated – Watts Up With That?

By Roger Caiazza

According to Bloomberg Law, Biden’s Hefty Clean Air To-Do List follows the early big promises that air quality standards need to be revised and that social justice and climate issues need to be addressed. Based on what I’ve seen, this boost will be based less on science than on emotion.

The Bloomberg article states:

“The revision of clean air regulations is a cornerstone of climate and justice policies, two areas that the Biden government has identified as priorities. Clean air experts in areas disproportionately exposed to dirty air say runaway air pollution remains a chronic problem, reflecting the neglect of low-income neighborhoods and color communities exacerbated by differences in air monitoring equipment become. “

“Portable air quality monitors used in the South Bronx and Brooklyn have captured 20 times higher levels of particles in some areas than government monitors reported. This comes from new data from a neighborhood-level air surveillance study by the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, or NYC-EJA. The results highlight inadequate aerial surveillance for targeted communities for environmental justice and why general air policies may not be enough to reduce pollution in hard-hit areas, said Jalisa Gilmore, research analyst for NYC-EJA. “So we’re putting a little more emphasis on hyperlocal monitoring and making sure we’re actually getting the interventions that are best for the community,” she said.

New York City’s hyperlocal monitoring program is outlined in the Community Air Mapping Project’s Results and Recommendations Report for Environmental Justice (CAMP-EJ). Shortly:

“Since there are only 13 high-performance sites for monitoring the ambient air in New York, air pollution is

Exposures are poorly characterized at the neighborhood level. To fill this data gap, CAMP-EJ used dozens of inexpensive, portable air quality monitors to measure hyperlocal air quality and characterize air pollution loads at more accurate spatial and temporal scales than is possible with existing city and state data. The results of our air surveillance campaign shed light on the disproportionate public health burdens that communities place on environmental justice from industrial pollution, trucking, and transportation infrastructure. “

The analysis found that local facilities and expressways are major polluters, traffic jams pollute the air twice a day, and that hyperlocal measurements show that inhalable particles are 20 times higher than government monitors. I wasn’t surprised by the first two results, but the claim that hyperlocal readings were much higher than government monitors surprised me.

I have experience operating air quality monitoring networks with particle monitors. I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to measure particles properly, especially with smaller aerodynamic particles like the inhalable particles or 2.5 micron particles. In the project, CAMP-EJ participants used the AirBeam2, an inexpensive palm-sized air quality instrument that measures PM2.5, and AirCasting, an open source environmental data visualization platform consisting of an Android app and online mapping


An AirBeam 2 is priced at $ 250, and the government monitor systems use instruments for $ 25,000. The state system has a detailed quality assurance plan and includes quality control tests that I doubt would have entered the community monitoring program. So my first thought is how accurate these personal monitors are. The report states, “The AirBeam2 PM2.5 readings are” fairly accurate “according to a South Coast Air Quality Management District performance assessment that compared AirBeam2 performance to reference monitors.”

However, the South Coast Air Quality Management District assessment report I found told a different story. Three sensors were tested against a FEM FRIMM PM 2.5 reference monitoring instrument similar to that used on the New York State network. After the final discussion:

“Accuracy: Overall, the three AirBeam sensors showed a very low accuracy compared to FEM GRIMM at 20 ° C and 40% relative humidity when the PM2.5 mass concentration was varied from 10 to 50 μg / m3. The AirBeam sensors clearly overestimated the FEM GRIMM values. According to the method used to calculate accuracy, the percent accuracy for the sensors were all negative. If PM2.5mass conc. was above 50 μg / m3, Airbeam sensors reached a plateau of 315 μg / m3. “

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the main conclusions of CAMP-EJ that local facilities and highways are major polluters and traffic jams pollute the air twice a day are correct. However, the monitors made significant use of overestimated concentrations of inhalable particles, especially at the higher rates they claimed were damaging local communities. As a result, the numbers they claim need to act are wrong.


Roger Caiazza blogs for the New York Pragmatic Environmentalist about energy and environmental issues in New York. This is his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company he has been associated with.

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