Shared Air, ShareD Action: Empowering communities through air quality monitoring
For decades, Chicago was ranked among the nation’s most heavily polluted cities due to its poor air quality. Chicagoans born before 1960 remember the city’s dirty past and hope for a cleaner future for their children and grandchildren. While smoke, steel factories, and coal plants no longer paint all of our city black with a thick coat of soot, air quality concerns persist for Chicago residents living with a disproportionate amount of pollution.
In 2016 Delta launched a two-year air quality monitoring initiative, in partnership with community-based organizations and public health groups, including University of Illinois at Chicago, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Kansas State University, Southeast Environmental Task Force, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Alliance for a Greener South Loop, and People for Community Recovery.
The initiative aims to help communities across the city gather data on air quality through a collaborative effort of residents, community groups and technical professionals.
With funding from U.S. EPA, Delta is working with community-based organizations in the Southeast Side, Riverdale Community Area, South Loop, and Little Village to monitor pollutants using low-cost air monitors. They use a system of mobile and stationary air monitors to collect their own data about the pollutants in the air they breathe.
“Petcoke, like many other bulk handling materials, has been assaulting the quality of life for residents of the Southeast Side. We share a footprint with our industrial neighbors.
“The residents of this community have become imprisoned in their homes due to the fear of what’s in our ambient air.”
— Samuel Corona, Southeast Environmental Task Force
A key component to this project is community science, or data collection by members of the community who collaborate with research scientists. This project aims to empower residents by giving them the ability to gather relevant data themselves guided by scientific principles. The ability to quantify data is critical for these communities advocating for cleaner air.
At the end of the research project, the team will compile training materials, methodology, and lessons learned into a guidebook that other communities across the country can use to develop their own resident-led, low-cost air monitoring programs. Delta hopes that the data gathered and the lessons learned will not only benefit the participating communities, but also provide best practices for other communities seeking concrete data to use in order to advocate for cleaner, healthier air.