Air Quality in BC: How Strathcona Uses PurpleAir Air Quality Monitors
How do you establish a baseline for air quality when air pollution is a constant problem?
Located along Vancouver Harbor, Strathcona is a thoroughfare for commercial trains, delivery trucks, and cargo ships. It’s great for the economy—but it’s also a major air quality concern for its residents.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that diesel-powered engines emit toxic air pollutants, including Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5). These small particles can bypass the immune system, causing cancer, lung and heart disease, and immune disorders.
But Strathcona residents aren’t taking this issue lying down.
Today, we’re delving into how Strathcona uses PurpleAir air quality monitors for the ongoing Strathcona Area Air Quality Study. This air quality program aims to measure the impact of these modes of transport on the air quality in BC, so they can develop concrete solutions for mitigation .
What is the Strathcona Area Air Quality Study?
The Strathcona Area Air Quality Study is a two-year air quality program that studies Vancouver air quality, particularly of the Strathcona neighborhood. It is headed by the Strathcona Residents Association, together with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. It’s also supported by the Metro Vancouver Air Quality Division, the University of British Columbia, and Vancouver Coastal Health.
The objectives of the air quality research are to:
- Build a robust air quality network that reports hyper-local data
- Identify the neighborhood’s air pollution hotbed
- Locate areas that lack air quality monitoring
- Create an air quality monitoring system
What is the Strathcona Residents Association?
The Strathcona Residents Association (SRA) is a non-profit BC group run by volunteers living in Strathcona. Since its establishment in 1992, it has been promoting the health, safety, and well-being of everyone in the neighborhood. Today, it has over 400 members.
Why Strathcona Air Quality is a Rising Concern
A recent air quality study ranked Canadian air quality as one of the best in the world. Yet, many of its citizens still live in areas with poor air quality—one of which is Strathcona in Vancouver.
Strathcona is a neighborhood that runs along Vancouver Harbor. As such, trains, trucks, and ships pass through it daily to reach the port. But that also means that residents are continuously exposed to the air pollutants emitted by commercial vehicles and marine vessels.
In a survey by the SRA, 79% of respondents said that the exhaust from heavy-duty diesel trucks is a major concern. Additionally, they also expressed worry over commercial trains, vehicles, and ships citing the air pollution they create.
Making the situation worse is the Centerm Terminal expansion project. Centerm Terminal is one of the largest container terminals in the port. Together with Vanterm, the terminals process more than one million twenty-foot-equivalent units yearly. With the expansion of Centerm, the trucks, and rails passing through Strathcona will increase by at least 125%. Because of this, air pollution emissions will double.
How Strathcona Uses PurpleAir to Prevent Poor Air Quality
It’s easy to understand why residents report harmful symptoms. Air quality research has found that PM2.5 affects your respiratory system, contributing to the development of asthma and lung cancer. This is the reality of many residents in Strathcona. However, they have too little air quality data to prove their claims.
“I have noticed a gradual increase in asthma-like breathing condition and breathlessness over the years of living here,” reported a participant in the SRA survey.
This way, residents can view the air quality index in real time, so they know if the air they breathe is getting better or worse. At the same time, they can gather data on the possible sources of air pollution in their neighborhood to pinpoint problems at the root.
With these air quality monitors, Strathcona can establish an air quality baseline that’s specific to the neighborhood. As such, it can determine if certain activities and projects are worsening air quality and hold them accountable. This ability empowers the neighborhood to take necessary steps to improve its air quality and, in turn, improve the quality of life for its residents.
We are excited for the Strathcona Area Air Quality Study results in 2025. Additionally, we can’t wait to see how it will empower residents to make informed decisions on their air quality.
Connect With PurpleAir
At PurpleAir, there are tons of organizations and researchers around the world using our data—from Google to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We’re thrilled to see research like the one we analyzed above be used to help local neighborhoods, and we look forward to seeing more in the future.
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