The COVID-19 pandemic and increasing wildfires have raised concerns about air quality and its impact on health. Traditionally, air quality readings have been taken by expensive instruments owned by local governments. However, in recent years, small, low-cost devices have revolutionized air quality monitoring, democratizing access to this information. Companies like Purple Air and IQ Air have built networks of citizen-owned monitors that provide real-time air quality data. These devices upload the data to broader networks, creating a crowdsourced snapshot of air quality information globally. The data is easily accessible through platforms like PurpleAir, which visualizes air quality readings on a color-coded map. This increased accessibility can help raise awareness about air quality and encourage behavior change.
The democratization of air quality monitoring has sparked interest and engagement from communities. People can easily opt-in to access the data and gain as much or as little information as they want. This form of engaged learning allows individuals to directly observe and understand the quality of the air they breathe. It has the potential to extend to other forms of environmental quality monitoring and can help drive behavioral changes to improve air quality.
The urgency created by recent disasters, such as wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, has increased the desire for people to understand the air they breathe. The accessibility of real-time air quality data has made it easier for individuals to monitor and be more conscious of the quality of their environment. This shift in attention is necessary, as air quality affects everyone, regardless of pre-existing health conditions. The democratization of air quality monitoring ensures that more people have access to information that can potentially prevent future health issues related to air pollution.