Low-Cost Air Quality Monitoring Pilot Study

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Project Overview

The Low-Cost Air Quality Monitoring Pilot Study will study air quality in communities disproportionately impacted by transportation related air pollution (TRAP) and provide community access to air quality data. The study will establish low-cost air quality monitoring sites in collaboration with the local community to measure hazardous pollutants from vehicular traffic. This pilot phase will teach us about localized air quality in our communities, so the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) and the community can develop future planning approaches to improve air quality in communities near roadways and improve the equity outcomes of transportation decision making. The research findings and community input will shape methods for a larger scale network of community monitoring sites following the pilot study. The Pilot Study Fact Sheet provides an overview of the study.

The study is sponsored by the TPO and conducted in collaboration with the University of South Florida (USF), Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).


What will this study accomplish?

  1. Collaborate with the community to establish pilot community monitoring sites.
  2. Research pollutants (particulate matter (PM 2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)) near roadways to better understand local air quality conditions.
  3. Provide public access to and increase awareness of the air quality data.
  4. Develop methods to build a larger network of low-cost air quality monitors in our communities.


Why care about air?

air pollution, health effects

The quality of air we breathe has a significant impact on our health and the environment where we live, work, and play, and pollution directly affects air quality. Continued growth in the county brings an increase of vehicles, construction, air pollutants, and pollutant-related health risks. Therefore, this study looks at the environmental and public health factors related to air quality and those who are most affected by air pollution near roadways.

  • TRAP is a mix of air pollutants from exhaust, fuel evaporation, wear of brakes, tires, and the roads themselves.
  • TRAP peaks near roadways. Residents and businesses who reside along roadways are disproportionately affected by highway traffic and TRAP-related health concerns.
  • TRAP is a community health problem known to cause excess mortality, increased health costs, loss of work productivity, and increased rates of asthma, premature birth and/or infant mortality, heart disease, respiratory illness, and lung cancer.
  • Nearly one-fifth of Hillsborough County’s total population lives within 300 meters of a high-volume road, and this figure is 13% higher among vulnerable populations.
  • Approximately one-quarter of those living within a community experiencing any combination of low-income, high proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, zero-vehicle households, limited English proficiency, and individuals with disabilities are exposed.
  • In Hillsborough County, studies show that African Americans and households living in poverty bear a higher burden of exposure to near-road air pollution.
  • Many neighborhoods along I-275 and I-4 are underserved communities that experience low-incomes and have a high proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, zero-vehicle households, limited English proficiency, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Increased air pollution is a lasting impact of highway construction in Hillsborough County beginning in the 1960’s that displaced families and communities in prominent African American neighborhoods, such as Central Avenue, and immigrant neighborhoods, such as Ybor City.
  • In the context of transportation planning, Environmental Justice (EJ) seeks to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the disproportionate distribution of negative environmental and health impacts of transportation projects in low-income and minority neighborhoods. EJ also requires meaningful participation in decision-making on issues related to a healthy environment.
  • A more thorough understanding of air quality in communities will enable the TPO to help achieve EJ goals; for example, the TPO can develop future transportation plans that offer more equitable protection from environmental and health impacts of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP).
  • The Air Quality Monitoring Pilot Study supports Plan Hillsborough’s Nondiscrimination and Equity Plan, adopted in 2021, and the federal EJ initiative under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through examining existing disparities in traffic-related air pollution across Hillsborough County communities.


About the Monitors

USF researchers diligently researched and selected low-cost air quality monitors for inclusion in this study and will test and validate the monitors and data for accuracy throughout the study. They selected monitors based on the following factors: the type and number of pollutants monitored; data collection, storage, and communication; monitor and installation costs; longevity and product support; and prior studies that tested the reliability of the monitor.

For more information about low-cost air quality monitors, see the FAQ section below.


Community input on air monitoring sites

Ethermap: AQ Monitoring Pilot Study 2022

The sites identified on this map are suggestions from a focus group with community organizations and agencies and input from the project webpage.
The red boundary markers outline the three pilot study communities.

Get involved


Oct - Dec 2021

Apr - June 2022

  • Install community monitors
  • Collect and analyze community air quality data
  • Public engagement with community sites

July - Aug 2022

  • Continue data collection and analysis
  • Continue public engagement
  • Report findings

Tell us

 

We want to hear any suggestions, questions, or concerns you have about the Low-Cost Air Quality Monitoring Pilot Study.

 

Yellow and orange car with smog


Frequently Asked Questions

‘Low-cost’ is the term being used in the research and practice world for an emerging type of innovative monitors that measure air quality. They are smaller and more affordable than national and state regulatory air monitors, and with a lower price and smaller size, more monitors can be dispersed across a greater area to capture more air quality measurements. Low-cost monitors are gaining popularity across the country and worldwide among individual residents and local agencies due to their ease of use and opportunities to share crowd-sourced air quality data (e.g. PurpleAir’s Real-Time Air Quality Map). The US Environmental Protection Agency provides additional information on air quality monitors at https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox.

The cost of regulatory monitors is a big reason why there are so few such monitors in the county.  For instance, a regulatory monitor for one pollutant can cost about $50,000 per year to operate. low-cost air monitors are a way to expand air quality measurements and supplement regulatory data. Researchers and monitoring companies are currently putting in a lot of work to evaluate and develop lower-cost monitors that simultaneously provide reliable air quality data and still make community air measurements affordable and possible. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides additional information on air quality monitors at https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox.



Status

Phase 2

Ongoing

Allison Yeh, AICP LEED GA



Contact

Allison Yeh, Transportation Planning Organization

T: 813-272-5940

yeha@plancom.org



Contact

Lizzie Ehrreich, Transportation Planning Organization

T: 813-272-5940

ehrreichl@plancom.org

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