Air Quality Monitoring Pilot Program Begins

East Boston Olin College students, Taylor Sheneman and Christine Dimke have begun to install instruments that will consciously measure a wide array of pollutants caused by fossil fuels emanating from Logan International Airport.

The pilot program is a collaboration between Olin, East Boston’s AIR Inc., Eastie’s airport mitigation advocacy group and Aerodyne, the manufactured of the ARISense air quality measuring technology.

Throughout the summer, Olin students and professors will use the ARISense technology that Billerica-based Aerodyne recently developed as an alternative to the more costly Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) equipment used to measure pollution levels in and around Boston.

Olin students will then use the data collected by the ARISense instruments and compare the results against the more costly technology currently being used by the EPA.

The Olin students, working with AIR Inc., will install eight to twelve of these sensors in Eastie that will continuously measure pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3), as well as the mass concentration of fine and coarse particulate matter (PM), and all relevant meteorological conditions.

The Olin students will then spend the entire 2018/2019 academic year testing and refining the monitoring network, and building a community-centered software system and user interface that will eventually provide Eastie residents with real-time, locally-relevant air quality data.

According to AIR Inc.’s President Gail Miller the team aims to enable community members to pro-actively limit their exposure to air pollutants. The pilot program also aims to “break the paradigm” that pollution monitoring is solely within the realm of the EPA or the polluters themselves,

““This could be important technology for neighborhoods across the country who want to empower their citizens with accurate air pollutant exposure data on which to take action for a healthier lifestyle,” said Miller.

Currently, the EPA’s air quality monitoring technology costs upwards of $250,000 per senor so there are only four in operation throughout Metro Boston. Existing EPA monitoring networks are only designed to measure regional air quality, and report pollutant concentrations on an hourly or daily basis. According to Olin’s studies personal exposure to dangerous air pollutants can vary substantially over distances of a few blocks or a few seconds and the EPA’s monitoring is not set up to capture or characterize these pollutants in real time.

“Through this collaboration with East Boston and Aerodyne, we are prototyping a more affordable, accurate and community-enabled air quality monitoring system that will begin to capture an individual’s true exposure to air pollutants,” said Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Olin Scott Hersey.

For a century Eastie has played host to Logan Airport, a significant source of noise and air pollution to the surrounding communities. According to studies, exposure to degraded air quality is responsible for 1 in 8 deaths globally, and in the United States air pollution accounts for approximately three times as many deaths as drug overdose and six times as many deaths as traffic accidents annually. These deaths are concentrated in communities near major sources of fuel combustion.

“We have a uniquely powerful opportunity to advance our understanding of neighborhood scale air quality through this project,” said Senior Scientist at Aerodyne Research and ARISenseEben Cross. “While developing a solution is complex, we are fortunate to have a highly invested and active citizenry in East Boston, combined with a student team from one of the best practice-based engineering schools in the world.”

“We look forward to reviewing the results of the study,” Massport said in a statement.

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