Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Opportunity to Revolutionize Air Quality Monitoring in Utah

During this past winter, we discussed how desperately we need more comprehensive air quality monitoring in the Salt Lake Valley.  Well, there is an article this week in the New York Times about efforts to sample and map air quality in New York that provides a glimpse of what could be done in Salt Lake City.  Be sure to check out the video.

The basic idea is to couple an air quality monitor with a smart phone and them map the data on a web site.  Imagine the quantity and density of observations that could be collected in the Salt Lake Valley (outdoor and indoor) in this fashion.  It is a little unclear from the video and the article precisely what can currently be measured, but the Aircasting web site suggests carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.  The video suggests they can measure particulate matter too (perhaps this is inferred based on the correlation between carbon monoxide and particulate matter).  In any event, any of these measurements are useful.

We need a system like this operating during inversions in the Salt Lake Valley and throughout the Wasatch Front.  We would have unprecedented information about the air quality in the valley.  Further, this is essentially "shovel-ready" project.  All that is needed are some enterprising individuals and some motivated groups or individuals to provide support.  This is a citizen science project that truly has the potential to revolutionize our knowledge and understanding of a major environmental and health challenge facing the Wasatch Front.  Someone out there should make it happen.

Addendum, 7:15 AM 7 June: I realized after hastily writing this last night that I probably should dig a little deeper.  Information on the air monitor and how to build one is here.  Additionally, there are accuracy, sampling, and calibration issues that need to be addressed, so "shovel-ready" might have been overly optimistic.  Nevertheless, I do see this as an example of what could be done along the Wasatch Front.


  1. Jim, are you aware of the Dylos Air Quality products:
    They actually measure particulate matter on a reasonably small footprint.

  2. There's also the Air Quality Egg:
    It has a strong community aspect built in. I can't comment on its accuracy, though.