Air Quality Resources

By Casey J. McLaughlin

Casey’s Take homes:

  • Air quality is important – it is both a national and Region 7 priority issue.
  • EPA has air quality data to help you make health decisions.

On my way into work, the other day I heard a great story on National Public Radio about an air-monitoring project called Hestia.  I found the story interesting for many reasons (they have a great YouTube video summary with LOTS of great visuals).   What really caught my attention was when I heard the guest say, “People look at these big giant spreadsheets in emissions accounting, and their eyes glaze over badly, but if they can see a color-coded map, if they can see a flyover view, people get engaged.”  (Scott Bernstein, head of the Center for Neighborhood Technology).

I think geospatial technology is fantastic and much more mainstream today (Thanks to online mapping and smart phones) than it was 10-15 years ago but the simple truth of “a picture is worth a 1000 words” holds even more truth when that picture is a map summarizing information.

An important component of EPA’s mission is to protect and improve air quality in order to avoid or mitigate the consequences of air pollution’s harmful effects. Air pollution can adversely affect critical functions of the atmosphere in many ways and EPA’s Administrator Jackson has listed improving air quality as a top priority.  EPA’s Air Quality Index (or AQS for Air Quality System) is an index for reporting daily air quality and provides citizens a way of easily understanding what local air quality means to your health.  The following additional sites provide access to data and other air related information:

  • The AIRNow Web site: The U.S. EPA, NOAA, NPS, tribal, state, and local agencies developed the AIRNow Web site to provide the public with easy access to national air quality information. The Web site offers daily AQI forecasts as well as real-time AQI conditions for over 300 cities across the US, and provides links to more detailed State and local air quality Web sites.
  • AirData: Access to monitored air quality data from EPA’s Air Quality System (AQS) Data Mart
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Outdoor Air page: CDC works closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide air quality data on the tracking network and to better understand how air pollution affects our health. On this network you will find information and data about the possible health effects of exposure to ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Keep track of the air around your neighborhood by using data EPA gathers so you can make healthy air decisions.

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

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