Last week, Air Partners installed “Austin Air” air filters as well as air quality sensors into classrooms at Little Folks Community Daycare Center on Trenton Street.
Working with the East Boston chapter of Mothers Out Front and AIR, Inc. (Airport Impact Relief Inc.) the program is to develop a creative atmosphere in which all children can thrive, emotionally, physically and intellectually through clean air.
“Air quality is of extreme importance for the teachers as well as the students,” said Mothers Out Front Coordinator Sonja Tengblad. “These air sensors will help Environmental Engineer Scott Hersey and his team at Olin College quantify the reduction in exposure to particles in nine classrooms at Little Folks as well as across their three locations the Dante Alighieri School and East Boston Social Center.”
Air Partners has been an advocate for clean air in East Boston since 2018 and is already running air quality monitoring pilot programs at the Dante Alighieri School and East Boston Social Center.
Professor Hersey and his team collected filter efficacy data on the air quality in those spaces after installing filters in each school.
“Through collaborations with Mothers Out Front East Boston and the East Boston Social Center, Air Partners decided to focus its next program on early childcare centers and worked to identify spaces with the most need in a variety of categories such as relation to flight paths, demographics, as well as age and mechanics of the building,” said Tengblad.
Air Partners has also collaborated with AIR Inc, and Mothers Out Front to launch a campaign focused on getting air filters into all Eastie public school classrooms. “This became even more crucial when COVID hit,” said Tengblad. “With a 360 percent increase in childhood asthma and double the COPD rates, East Boston was challenged even further with the highest rates of COVID in Boston. As a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study outlined, people exposed to higher levels of ultrafine particulate matter saw an 8 percent increase in COVID mortality.”
Certain air filters like Austin Air remove 75-82 percent of ultrafine particulate (UFP) pollution, as well as 95 percent of COVID-19 particles. Increased exposure to UFPs is linked to behavioral problems and developmental delays in children.
“By lowering students’ exposure, studies are showing that using specific brands and models of air filters in classrooms is one of the most cost-effective ways to lower the achievement gap,” said Tengblad. “This is of particular interest in communities like East Boston which is composed of 58 percent Latinx families, as air pollution disproportionately affects people of color worldwide.”
AIR Inc. Vice President Chris Marchi said it has become clear that air filtration can protect children from the harmful pollution from Logan airport that falls out under flight paths, comes from the tailpipes of the Ubers and Lyft and passes directly into our homes, churches and schools.
“People from East Boston have been calling for Massport and the state to control Logan’s air pollution for over 50 years,” said Marchi. “And it’s now clear to us at AIR, Inc. that if we want environmental justice, we need to create it ourselves. That’s why we’re teaming up with Mother’s Out Front and Air Partners to begin distributing air filtration machines to local schools ourselves.”
Marchi said the program is a community volunteer program and the partners realize that they can’t afford to outfit every classroom with filter machines.
“So we are going to start by protecting the classrooms of the youngest children and keep buying and distributing these air filtration machines as long as we can,” said Marchi. “Our science team at Air Partners, based at Olin College of Engineering has tested these machines in BPS classrooms and we know that they can remove over 70 percent of the air pollution. The body’s inflammatory responses to pollution act very quickly when exposed to pollution- but the good news is that the reverse is also true: just minutes after we plug in these air filter machines our bodies’ defenses ramp back down. That’s where we want to keep things: so that our children can breathe clean air; so they can grow and learn -at least while they’re in the classroom.”