Air Quality in Wisconsin: Beloit Air Quality Program
“If you’re not monitoring, you’re not going to be able to act,” states Brittany Keyes, former Vice President of the Beloit city council.
Even though Beloit, Wisconsin, has a high rate of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) hospitalizations, it lacks air quality monitoring for data-driven decisions. In fact, they only receive air quality updates for ozone a few days a year. This means they don’t know if they’re exposed to other types of air pollutants that are just as deadly, like particulate matter.
That’s why a group of air quality volunteers started the Beloit Project.
The Beloit Project uses six PurpleAir air quality monitors provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help citizens gain access to their air quality data. Beyond this, it seeks to empower citizens to protect themselves against poor air quality and find solutions to improve it.
We always interact with our PurpleAir Community to see what projects are happening. Together, we’re cultivating a community and empowering members with the data they need to tackle air pollution worldwide. We believe in making air quality knowledge accessible to everyone—and we’re not alone in that mission.
Today, we’re excited to share how citizens in Beloit are building their own air quality network with PurpleAir air quality monitors.
Recent Air Quality in Wisconsin
According to the 2022 Wisconsin Air Quality Trends Report, Wisconsin air quality has improved over the past few years. So much so that average ozone concentrations have declined by 25%, sulfur dioxide by 88%, and carbon monoxide by 58%. However, the report shows an incomplete picture of Wisconsin air quality.
The American Lung Association indicates that only 27 out of 72 counties in Wisconsin can be graded for air quality. That is because only 26 counties have federal ozone monitoring stations, and only 16 have particulate matter monitoring stations.
As such, there are significant air quality data gaps on air pollution in Wisconsin—specifically, data regarding particulate matter. It’s no wonder why residents in Beloit are raising concerns about the state of their air quality.
Why Beloit-Rock County Air Quality is Concerning
The latest Wisconsin Department of Health found that Rock County has the fifth highest number of asthma hospitalizations in the state. Additionally, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder COPD is above state value at 47.6 ER visits per 10,000 people. In other words, because Beloit City is located in Rock County—Beloit's citizens are extremely vulnerable to high levels of air pollution.
Yet, they aren’t receiving regular updates on their air quality.
The reason behind this is that Beloit only has an ozone monitoring station, which sends out alerts every time the ozone level is beyond 100. That means residents receive air quality data less often than they could, only every few days.
Not only that, but residents also don’t know how much Particulate Matter (PM2.5) they’re exposed to. Air quality research shows that the health effects of PM2.5 include the development of COPD, asthma, lung and heart disease, and cancer. It can even result in early death.
So, citizens are building an air quality network to gain access to real-time air quality updates.
What is the Beloit Project?
The Beloit Project is an air quality monitoring project formed by a group of air quality activists who want to raise awareness in Beloit City. Its goal is to engage and educate the communities, schools, and neighborhoods on air quality. Most of all, it aims to empower citizens to combat poor air quality with the right tools and resources.
With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Loan Sensor Program, this air quality project borrowed six PurpleAir air quality monitors. These monitors were then placed in locations with vulnerable communities, including:
- Beloit College
- Family Services of Southern Wisconsin
- Turtle Ridge Neighborhood
- Merrill Community Center
- Welty Environmental Center
- Beloit Memorial High School
Now, Beloit citizens can access air quality data 24/7 through the PurpleAir Map. As such, they can take effective actions that protect their health from poor air quality and mitigate the air pollution in their area.
Beyond all this, the Beloit Project involves more citizens in air quality monitoring, especially the younger generations. It's also challenging them to develop innovative solutions that improve their community’s air quality.
Get Involved Yourself
At PurpleAir, there are tons of community projects going on around the world. We’re thrilled to see these kinds of collaborative efforts, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future. Are you working on a community project with PurpleAir’s air quality monitors?
We would love to hear about it. Share a post in the Community Project forum, so we can highlight your work. Together, we can make air quality accessible for everyone.