Meet the GASP Community Science Program Saving Alabama Air Quality
Advocating for better air quality is a relay race—you don’t stop after one goal.
Instead, you keep moving forward, overcoming the obstacles ahead of you. Then, you pass the baton to the next generation as they continue the fight, as air pollution and its sources continuously change over time.
No one knows this problem better than the air quality charity GASP, which has followed in the footsteps of previous air quality advocates working to improve the air quality in Alabama. The GASP community’s achievements and impact on Alabama air quality align with our values in PurpleAir, so we’re proud to share more about this non-profit organization below.
We believe in making air quality knowledge accessible to all. And we’re not alone in that mission.
What is the GASP Community Science Program?
GASP is short for Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, a non-profit air quality organization to improve Alabama air quality. Originally named Alabama First, the members took inspiration from the original GASP group in the 1970s.
Back then, GASP organized protests and enforced the Clean Air Act. In fact, it was instrumental in having a judge implement the act for the first time in history, forcing local factories to shut down until air pollution cleared.
Presently, GASP continues its legacy, ensuring everyone in Alabama breathes clean air by:
- Upholding the law to strengthen air quality regulations, permits, and enforcement.
- Educating the public on the risks of air pollution.
- Providing communities with tools to understand and enhance their air quality.
- Collaborating with air quality scientists, organizations, businesses, and other groups.
The State of Alabama Air Quality
Historically, Birmingham has one of the worst levels of air quality in the country. Air pollution from mines, industrial mills, steel industries, and factories would darken the sky. So much so that residents needed extra clothes throughout the day as the wind easily dirtied them.
While air pollution in Alabama has significantly improved since then, much more remains to be done.
According to the 2022 State of the Air Report, Birmingham still has one of the worst levels of air quality in the Southeast. Additionally, it has the 3rd worst concentration of particle pollution in the Southeast and the 99th worst year-round particle pollution in the entire country.
The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) also reports that metal processing and industrial activities continue to be the top polluters in Birmingham—especially for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is inherently dangerous to humans. Things aren’t looking great...
Thankfully, GASP is taking action.
What GASP is Doing About Air Quality in Alabama
Since it was established in 2010, GASP has been holding air polluters accountable for their emissions. In 2020, it secured a $925,000 penalty—one of the biggest in JCDH history—against Bluestone Coke for endangering citizens with naphthalene and benzene.
Most recently, it demanded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action against the underground fire in the Moody Landfill. GASP did this by installing PurpleAir air quality monitors in nearby residential homes and monitoring the harmful PM2.5 emissions from the landfill.
Currently, GASP is also encouraging residents to install PurpleAir air quality monitors through its Community Science Program. With this, GASP collects hyper-local, real-time air quality data and builds a dense air quality network in Alabama. It has also embedded the PurpleAir Map on its website for a more visual representation of the data.
GASP looks forward to the programs it develops with PurpleAir air quality monitors. Aside from being affordable, these devices are also functional in providing accurate air quality data. In fact, EPA reviewed and recommended PurpleAir air quality monitors for community science projects.
As Michael Hansen from GASP explains, “Better is not good enough. It’s only part of the picture.” In other words, improving air quality is continuous work, so you can always do better than before.
Connect With PurpleAir
At PurpleAir, there are tons of organizations and researchers around the world using our data—from Google to the EPA. We’re thrilled to see research like this being used to help local neighborhoods, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future.
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