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Massachusetts expands network of air quality sensors to underserved, low-income communities

Massachusetts expands network of air quality sensors
Massachusetts expands network of air quality sensors 02:41

BOSTON - To celebrate Earth Week, the Healey-Driscoll administration announced a $775,000 grant to expand the network of air quality sensors across the Commonwealth.

Representatives of the Massachusetts Department of the Environmental Protection as well as from the Energy and Environmental Affairs office gathered in Kenmore Square to offer members of the press a tour of one of the state's 24 air quality monitoring stations.

The stations like the one in Kenmore Square are permanent and expensive, so the goal behind the grant is to expand the air quality sensing network by deploying "PurpleAir" sensors. These sensors are much more affordable and have much less of a footprint.

Protecting environmental justice communities   

Over 200 of the PurpleAir sensors will be given out to underserved, lower-income communities at no cost to them. This supplements the 248 sensors distributed in 2021.  

"Expanding our network to track that air quality data over time not only gives us the data at our fingertips but also informs our policy decisions," Mass DEP Commissioner Bonnie Heiple told WBZ. She added, "We know, we have the data to back up, that the air quality in our environmental justice communities is worse."

Protecting these environmental justice communities is both professional and personal to Maria Belen Power, who serves at as the EEA Undersecretary of Environmental Justice and Equity. Power's six-year-old daughter has asthma. She told WBZ, "I don't necessarily think it's a coincidence that we live in Chelsea, and that she has asthma. Chelsea has one of the highest rates of hospitalization for children from asthma in the state of Massachusetts."

Air quality monitoring
Air quality monitoring station in Kenmore Square CBS Boston

Massachusetts' air quality has improved greatly since the passage of the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, but the state still has a way to go hit future climate goals. This expansion of the air quality network will help to monitor our progress.

Commissioner Heiple added, "this gives us the ability to track greenhouse gases, other pollutants to measure our adjustments. Between 2025 and 2030 is when we need to make the most significant adjustments to be on the right path towards combatting climate change."

The air monitoring stations test for pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter. The data that is collected by these sensors feeds into a website run by the DEP

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