How a Community Project Brings Awareness to Revelstoke Air Quality
It only takes one person to start a movement.
They only need community concern, a platform, and air quality monitors. With these three tools, they can shed light on their community’s air quality. In return, it can empower data-driven actions that help mitigate and minimize air pollution.
This is precisely what Ian Houghton did when he started an air quality project for Revelstoke.
By crowdsourcing, he was able to start an air quality program. He purchased PurpleAir air quality monitors, allowing him to monitor the air quality in Revelstoke. He also made air quality data accessible to his neighbors, so they could make informed decisions when air quality reached unhealthy levels.
Most of all, Ian brought air quality to the front and center of his city, raising awareness and concern.
Today, we’re discussing how one community project helped an entire city.
The State of Air Quality in Revelstoke
Recent air quality research reports that cities in Southern BC have the worst air quality in Canada. While Revelstoke isn’t included in the list, that doesn’t exempt it from having poor air quality, just like its neighbors. Because there isn’t an existing government air quality station in Revelstoke, there’s no updated data on Revelstoke’s air quality.
However, in 2009, research from the Ministry of Environment gave the city some clues. According to the document, Particulate Matter (PM) levels have been on a downward trend since 1997. In fact, they’re well within provincial guidelines.
But the report points out significant spikes in PM levels during forest fires. This is even made worse by temperature inversion due to Revelstoke’s topography. As such, air pollution stays in the atmosphere longer, aggravating health issues for city dwellers.
In addition, Revelstoke is home to the Canadian Pacific Railway, Revelstoke Airport, and multiple forestry and construction industries. All of which contribute to poor air quality. Another air quality study found that train emissions increase fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This, in turn, increases the risk of developing cancer, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and other health conditions.
Why a Lack of Air Quality Monitoring Puts Revelstoke at Risk
The fact is air quality varies from city to city and even neighborhood to neighborhood. By not having an air quality network in Revelstoke, the city can’t pinpoint the specific sources of air pollution and effectively solve it. Not only that, but citizens also have inaccurate means of determining the air quality during wildfire season. And with Revelstoke being an evacuation site for nearby neighborhoods, it’s possibly putting more people at risk.
Former Revelstoke mayor, Mark McKee, stated the following in his letter:
“The Health Advisory Committee is concerned for the reason that, during the summer of 2017, many people were sent to Revelstoke for a reprieve from the forest fires and the resulting smoke. Health officials were not able to determine if Revelstoke was even a safe environment for these people.”
How a Crowdfunding Air Quality Community Project is Helping Revelstoke
Although Revelstoke is petitioning the government for an air quality monitoring system, its citizens have taken immediate action through a project called Air Quality Monitor for Revelstoke.
The air quality program was started by Ian Houghton, who was alarmed by the smoggy summer of 2018. After the provincial government denied the city’s request for an air quality monitor, he began crowdfunding the air quality project to purchase PurpleAir air quality monitors.
Unlike other commercial devices, PurpleAir air quality monitors are affordable devices that measure real-time air quality. Its air quality data is also so precise that a study by Southcoast AQMD found that the PurpleAir Classic has a 97% correlation with FRM/FEM concentration for particulate matter.
At least 17 community scientists have contributed to the project so far. Ian also purchased two PurpleAir air quality monitors for Revelstoke. He then built the Revelstoke Air Quality website to access Revelstoke air quality data easily.
Since then, news outlets have also been able to use PurpleAir data to report the air quality in Revelstoke. It has also helped citizens understand if the air they breathe is safe according to the air quality health index.
Thanks to the crowdfunding project, Revelstoke citizens can now make more informed decisions to protect themselves from air pollution—especially during wildfires.
The Air Quality Monitor for Revelstoke project is just one example of how community scientists have the power to raise awareness about air quality. With the help of PurpleAir, they can affordably build an air quality network and get easy access to air quality data.
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.
Are you a technology company or institution looking to work with PurpleAir?