May 3 through May 7 2021 is Air Quality Awareness Week!
Visit this page every day during the week for helpful air quality information!
Thursday, May 6: Environmental Justice and Air Quality
In California, AB617 was signed into law in 2017 and launched the statewide Community Air Protection Program – a new community focused action framework to improve air quality and reduce exposure to criteria air pollutants and toxic air contaminants in the communities most impacted by air pollution.
The District has been holding community meetings in Disadvantaged Communities in Butte County for several years to collect information on air quality priorities. Funding has also been made available through Community Air Protection Incentives. In fact, we’re taking applications right now for community-based projects that can help improve air quality or reduce exposure to air pollution. Applications are due tomorrow! Don’t worry, the application is quick to fill out. More information at https://bcaqmd.org/cap/.
Wednesday, May 5: Citizen Science and Sensors
Over the past few years, companies such as PurpleAir have developed and brought to market low-cost air quality sensors, and several tools, that provide the public information regarding their local air quality in real-time. The District has deployed a handful of these low-cost air quality sensors from PurpleAir throughout Butte County, to provide the public access to real-time air quality data from their local communities.
District Staff Installing PurpleAir Sensors
These small (about the size of a softball), low-cost PurpleAir sensors monitor Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter consists of small solid and liquid particles that are composed from a variety of sources, such as smoke and dust. PurpleAir measures the two main types of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and provides real-time measurement data while only needing a standard power outlet and a Wi-Fi connection. PurpleAir’s real-time air quality data combined with official data provided by resources such as AirNow, can provide communities with a greater understanding of their local air quality. To find the map of real-time data or to purchase an indoor or outdoor sensor, visit PurpleAir.com.
AirNow AQI Meter (Left) & AirNow Fire and Smoke Map (Right)
Another resource for air quality data is AirNow. AirNow provides current and forecasted air quality data for both Particulate Matter and Ozone. AirNow has started a pilot program called the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map which allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to incorporate data from PurpleAir and other temporary monitoring sites to provide the public a picture of their local air quality during a wildfire event. The sensor data and map can be found at https://fire.airnow.gov/.
With AirNow, PurpleAir, and other monitoring tools providing air quality data, a common question we hear from the public is which one is best to use? A combination of all air quality data and forecasting tools can provide each individual an understanding of current air quality conditions and inform decisions regarding spending time outdoors. Using government-regulated data such as AirNow provides more accurate data since it is held to much higher standards. Still, community-based sensors such as PurpleAir can give an idea of air quality data in your local community in real-time.
If you have further questions or are interested in low-cost air quality sensors in your community, the U.S. EPA has developed an Air Sensor Toolbox that provides resources including sensor performance, understanding air quality readings, and much more. The Air Sensor Toolbox for more information can be found here.
Additionally, AirNow maps can be found at AirNow.gov, or through the AirNow app, available on the Apple App Store as well as the Google Play Store. Also, links to both AirNow and PurpleAir air quality maps are available on our website, www.butteairquality.com.
Tuesday, May 4: Asthma and Your Health
What is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is a mixture of microscopic particles and gases that are emitted both by natural and human sources. Although often invisible, air pollutants have a significant impact on our health. More specifically, our respiratory and cardiovascular health.
What Is Asthma?
According to the CDC, asthma is a respiratory condition that affects more than 25 million Americans. Asthma is a condition in which the smaller airways in the lungs become inflamed and blocked by mucus when exposed to a trigger, making it difficult to breathe. Triggers are often environmental, most prominently particle pollution and ground-level ozone.
How Does Air Quality Affect Asthma?
Source: Community Health Training Institute, 2019.
Particle pollution consists of small liquid or solid particles. The most common sources of particle pollution include haze, smoke, dust, and pollen, to name a few. These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs due to their small size. As these tiny particles travel deep into the respiratory system, they trigger an inflammatory response. Therefore, putting asthmatics at risk for an asthma attack.
Source: US EPA
Ozone is another prominent trigger for asthma. The main contributor to smog and haze, ozone is the result of a reaction between vehicle emissions and sunlight. Ozone gas, when inhaled, is highly irritating to the respiratory system. Due to this fact, it has been shown that as ozone concentrations increase, so do the number of asthma attacks and other asthma-related symptoms.
Source: US EPA
Air Quality and Your Health
Air pollution has shown to trigger, worsen, and even contribute to the development of a variety of respiratory conditions and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, ensuring good air quality is an essential factor in ensuring public health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that air pollution is responsible for approximately 4.2 million premature deaths globally. This is due to air pollution’s known contribution to heart attacks, stroke, lung cancer, and a variety of respiratory-related conditions. Although air pollution negatively impacts everyone, unfortunately, some communities are more vulnerable than others. The WHO reports that factors such as age, health status, and even socioeconomic status can increase one’s vulnerability to air pollution.
Knowing air quality’s impact on our lives, how can we better ensure our health and well-being?
The US Environmental Protection Agency has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for several pollutants that concern human health. In California, air districts work to measure and monitor these pollutants at the local level. Primarily focusing on the ones of greatest concern, particulate matter (PM) and ozone. Pollutants are measured and air quality is forecasted daily by local air districts, including us here at BCAQMD. So if you have questions or concerns regarding the air quality in your area, your local air district can provide further information regarding air quality and your health.
Monday, May 3: Wildfires and Smoke
Butte County is unfortunately no stranger to wildfire smoke. 2008, 2018, and 2020 were especially devastating years. Now is the time to prepare by making your home or business smoke-ready. This week also happens to be Wildfire Preparedness Week. Visit Airnow’s page on getting smoke-ready – there’s info on how to make a clean room and how to make a DIY box fan filter!
The Fire and Smoke Map from Airnow has been vastly improved over the past few years and now features additional particulate sensors for better coverage in Butte County. Definitely a great site to have bookmarked!
If you want to check back in with us for wildfire smoke information, our wildfire page at https://bcaqmd.org/resources-education/wildfires is updated throughout the year.