How clean is Grand Rapids’ air? It depends on where you live

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WOOD) – A pilot air quality monitoring program in the Grand Rapids neighborhoods hopes to share its real-time results with the community next month.

JustAir Co-founder and CEO Darren Riley told the Downtown Development Authority on Wednesday that his company plans to roll out its community dashboard in December. The website provides real-time information on air quality. Residents will also eventually be able to receive air quality alerts and report concerns via SMS, which will be relayed to Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

“The real goal here is to protect the 20,000 breaths a person takes on any given day. The real problem with this is that … where those breaths are actually taken is of great importance to the healthy results of a person’s life. The real problem here is that with the many communities that are often underserved or overindicated to air pollution, those 20,000 breaths could actually work against their lives, ”Riley said said the DDA.

Riley said the economic impact of this health problem is “huge” as well, costing $ 600 billion a year in missed school days, absenteeism and premature deaths, according to researchers.

Prior to this pilot, Grand Rapids only had one US Environmental Protection Agency sensor north of downtown that collected air quality information once a day. JustAir’s sensor network collects real-time data every hour.

“So DGRI and the City of Grand Rapids are really at the forefront when it comes to some of this work,” said Riley.

Thanks to a sponsorship from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the support of appropriate neighborhood groups, JustAir installed five air sensors and an ozone monitor in Grand Rapids. Riley said they were in talks to potentially expand the program to the Creston and Madison neighborhoods.

“We don’t enter a community without a buy-in from that community,” he said.

The five sensors record temperature, humidity, nitrogen dioxide and two levels of particle pollution. Riley said the program had more than 90,000 air quality data points.

Riley said health data could point to inequalities in air quality: Places with more people hospitalized for asthma tend to have higher levels of air pollution.

JustAir has been collecting air quality data for five months so far, and “what we believed was true we now know as true,” said Riley.

Graphics Riley presented during the DDA meeting showed more unhealthy air quality readings on the Southwest Community Campus compared to the Sixth Street Park sensor just a few miles away. However, Riley told News 8 that he cannot give any definitive trends in city air quality at this time as he is still analyzing historical data.

(The graphs that JustAir presented during the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority’s November 2021 meeting show some air quality data collected from the sensors installed earlier this year.)

JustAir plans to go beyond providing air quality data. Riley said his company plans to work with the area’s health systems to communicate with the community about poor air quality. JustAir also hopes to work with the city to influence policies on landfill use, trucking and other air pollutants, and to educate families so they can protect themselves and stand up for themselves.

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