Clean Air

Air Quality Chicago Report: Using Community Science to Reduce Particulate Pollution & Protect Public Health

Using Community Science to Reduce Particulate Pollution & Protect Public Health

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) began air quality monitoring in 2013, working with community partners to better understand – and address – particulate pollution in the Chicago area. This community science, also known as citizen science, program grew and evolved as we built new partnerships, came to understand specific local concerns, and learned best practices for data collection.

Since ELPC started using handheld mobile monitors in 2017, we have worked with over 30 organizations, schools, and community groups gathering over 14 million data points. We helped people understand the particulate pollution in their neighborhoods and how they can make a difference in their communities, while building partnerships to expand monitoring across the city and working with scientists to analyze the data.

Highlights include:

  • The story of how and why ELPC conducted this project, working with community partners, scientific researchers, local universities, museums, and schools, and everyday volunteers from across the city (and nearby suburbs).
  • A new methodology for analyzing mobile monitoring data for long-term findings, which shows:
    • Hotspots tend to cluster near highways, diesel trains, and industrial facilities.
  • A new analysis of data from citywide stationary monitors, which shows:
    • New, stronger federal standards for fine particulate matter pollution will help many more Chicagoans.
    • Air quality is better near parks, showing the strongest correlation of all zoning types within a half-mile of air quality monitors.
  • Recommendations for future researchers and community groups on how to do mobile air quality monitoring most effectively
  • Recommendations for policymakers and other civic leaders to reduce the sources of pollution and protect the public.


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