A project led by a UNBC Professor is making it easier for Canadians to monitor the air quality in their communities, and is helping scientists determine what steps are needed to ensure our air is cleaner.
In collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, UNBC researchers developed an interactive online map showing hourly observations on air quality across Canada.
“It really was spurred on by the development of very low-cost sensors for particulate matter for air quality,” said UNBC Faculty of Environment Professor Peter Jackson, the project’s lead.
“Up until 10 or 15 years ago, it cost a lot of money to measure air quality and particulate matter in the air. In the last decade or more there’s been the development of these low-cost sensors coming out of Asia.”
Jackson said companies put the sensors into monitors that cost a few-hundred dollars rather than tens of thousands of dollars.
“A lot of the vendors have their own map for their own particular monitor that they have,” he said.
“What we did is we wanted to combine the low-cost monitoring data, so the measurements from all these low-cost monitors, with the governmental monitors and put them on the same map.”
Jackson said they’ve also done a study comparing the readings from the low-cost and high-end monitors.
He added having these low-cost monitors available to the public is beneficial because they can be put almost everywhere.
“For example in Prince George, we have a study we’re doing with Environment and Climate Change Canada where we’ve put over 50 monitors around the town, and so now we can monitor pm 2.5 at the neighbourhood scale instead of having just one or two main monitors that would be part of the government network,” Jackson explained.
“It also allows anyone to be able to add monitors where there previously wasn’t data available so for example in smaller towns that wouldn’t have a monitor or in First Nations communities for example, we can put monitors out, and especially when we’re prone to wildfire smoke and that kind of thing. It allows us to understand better what people are exposed to and people can use that information to modify their behaviours if they choose.”
The map can be found here.