How Citizens Can Help Their Communities Ensure Satisfactory Air Quality

ByMarc Silberberg


We wanted to find out what the story is with air quality monitors for both the home and for outside the home. Thankfully we can look up on our phones the daily outdoor air quality and the range of acceptable numbers. I was not aware of a reliable air quality measurement other than carbon monoxide detectors. In this article we will attempt to inform you of the various types of both indoor and outdoor air quality monitors but will not give you our preferences which are easily obtainable on Consumers Reports. We will also inform you of how private citizens are helping their communities to combat air pollution.

Different parts of the same city will have different air quality ratings depending on if they are residential, industrial or traffic areas such as highways, factories or private residential areas and New York City is a pertinent example of this phenomenon. When outsiders think of New York City they usually will concentrate on the Island of Manhattan. It could be that foreigners or out of towners might not even realize that Manhattan is an Island (that was purchased from the Indians for twenty-five dollars). Once you visit Manhattan you will notice how many bridges connect to other boroughs such as Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The congestion of Manhattan continues over the bridges to the other boroughs but if you get far enough away from Manhattan you will be greeted by quiet suburbia where the air pollution is much less. Trees and grass not only enhance the beauty of the homes but help reduce air pollution as well.

Since we were stuck at home for almost two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic we have become more concerned about our home’s indoor air quality. Indoor air quality monitors have a range of zero to one hundred with the best score being one hundred. The outdoor air quality monitors have a different way of measurement which is called the Air Quality Index introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency. The scale for this index is zero to five hundred with zero as the most desirable air quality measurement.

Some elementary school children are fascinated by the weather and in this twenty-first century the weather includes air quality index, wind, UV (sunlight) strength, rainfall, snow and of course humidity. Personally, two of my grandsons are so involved in finding out about the weather by calling the weather hotline for their area several times a day and by having their own weather predicting instruments. All in all our society is quite obsessed with predicting the weather and many times they are wrong since there is a higher authority who can change the weather at the blink of an eye. Yet, there is a special weather channel that conveys enough information to keep weather enthusiasts glued to the channel. Storms and hurricanes become unfolding dramas that these weather devotees wouldn’t miss.

Just as the experts attempt to predict the weather, the same thing can be said with predicting air quality. For example, if a wildfire breaks out close to where you live it will all depend on the wind as to which way the smoke will be headed. Wildfire smoke is not a simple mixture but contains harmful gasses, water vapor from the spray that the firemen use, and particulate matter which is a combination of both liquid and solid rivulets. These kinds of particles contain gases such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Living near an active volcano is exciting but harmful to your health.

Although the gases coming from outdoor disasters would generally fall into the measurements of outdoor air quality the effects roll over into indoor air quality as well. Particles are ingested by the lungs and even enter the blood harming other body organs. Similarly, if there is a fire in the home or at a neighbor’s house, the fumes will be inhaled by residents and with a good indoor air quality monitor family members will know if they need to leave the home or stay put if possible since the outdoor air quality will be worse. This is of course only relevant after the firemen leave the scene and assure the residents that their home is safe to return to.

What Do Indoor Air Quality Monitors Identify?

These monitors not only identify various pollutants but most also measure humidity and temperature. While it is still prudent to have a specific carbon monoxide detector, many indoor monitors will identify carbon monoxide readings as well as volatile organic compounds, (also known as VOC’s) which are found in new carpets, dry cleaning and household cleaning agents and different types of particulate matter (PMs). This matter comes in different measurements or microns, for example, PM10 means that each particle is ten microns in diameter. PM2.5 means a measurement of 2.4 microns or smaller in diameter. When these scores are added to other measurements such as carbon monoxide, humidity, and temperature a composite score will be named the indoor air quality index.

Some of the latest indoor air quality monitors are called “smart” since they will be connected to such smart home technologies such as Apple and Google Home and Amazon Alexa. When a detector senses a deterioration in the indoor air quality of a home it will automatically turn on a smart air purifier. These connections to technology may be challenging and take time to set up but they will enhance the success of a smart air purifier substantially.

What Can You Do to Help Improve Air Quality at Home and in Your Community?

It’s certainly a tremendous advantage to have air quality monitors inside and outside the home to prevent tragedies from occurring from toxic fumes. However, we must be proactive and find ways to keep our air clean before it gets dirty, and folks are starting to realize this themselves after hearing horrible stories of people being harmed and dying from harmful fumes.

It is not too complex to find the sources of air pollution in your neighborhood, what is more difficult is to figure out how to eliminate or reduce it. Here are some factors that can help you and your neighbors improve the outdoor air quality in your community.

1 – Let’s start with your car. Have your car checked often for exhaust and oxygen sensor issues.

2 – Make sure your tires are inflated properly since underinflated tires decrease your gas mileage.

3 – When picking up your child from school or stopping to talk to someone on the street, you should shut off your engine. Your child’s school may already have a no idling policy since it sometimes can take a while until your child comes out of school.

4 – Monitor backyard barbecues. Many folks keep their fires burning until they self-extinguish. If you are using wood or charcoal, limit the amount of time burning and it would certainly be smart to use the type of fuel that will cause less air pollution. Just like you should not keep your car idling unnecessarily, it’s the same with the length of time you keep your barbeque burning. As soon as the cooking is done, put out the fire, especially on a windy day.

5 – A nice and natural pollution deterrent is trees. If possible, plant trees near or on your property and advocate for increases in tree planting in your neighborhood. Trees act as filters for pollutants such as carbon monoxide both outdoors and indoors as they release oxygen into the air which aids in the cooling of our homes as well.

6 – To the folks who mow their own lawns and use electric snow blowers to remove their snow, try switching from gas to electric since these items may not have any pollution controls attached to them. By running your lawn mower for an hour you are using the same amount of gas as if you took your car for a hundred mile ride!

Here is a story about an actual neighborhood that fought to prevent a concrete company from invading their neighborhood and endangering their outdoor air quality. A Detroit neighborhood, which had a very dangerous level of air pollution, received a grant from a subsidiary of Ford for six air quality detectors. Although the citizens failed to get the concrete company to move out they now have a way of making sure that the factory stays within good air quality standards.

The residents of this city also complain about general bad pollution from other sources such as the Ambassador Bridge, heavy truck traffic and other industrial practices. By gathering information from six air quality monitors the residents will have proof of exactly what the pollution statistics are in their neighborhood. They then will be able to campaign for their community with actual real-time numbers to bring to town meetings.

Federal funding for air quality monitors is coming through the E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) which apportioned $53.4 million dollars in 2022 and this past November of 2023 a new community grants program allocated $2.4 billion dollars for what is being named, “climate justice challenges”.

Outdoor air quality monitors range in price from $2,500-$5,000 depending on how intense the community’s air pollution is. If there is a methane danger monitors that work for methane will be more costly and hopefully the community budget, grants or both will cover the needs of the community

Final Words

Communities across the globe have waited long enough for their governments to step up and take proper action to combat dangerous air pollution. Air quality monitor companies are cooperating with government organizations to receive funding to ensure that the air in their communities becomes safe for their residents. Non-profit organizations are making yearly commitments to keep the air quality monitors up to date and to increase the amount of these monitors so that there is no area that is not covered.

Private businesses with the latest monitoring equipment will work with community members to ensure that the right type of monitors are being used in different venues. For example, if there is an industrial plant situated near a residential community the monitoring company will recommend the correct monitor that will measure methane, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. If there is a highway running through the neighborhood and the people are worried about pollution the air quality monitoring company will recommend monitors that measure gases such as nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons as well as carbon monoxide. If community members get involved personally there is a fair chance that success will happen, and air pollution will decrease substantially. It’s up to us to take this huge undertaking into our own hands. It looks like the funding is up for grabs, but the right citizens must take charge.

All Blog Articles

Get Free Estimate

Give us some info and we'll get right back to you with a quote


    How can we help?


    At NJ AIR QUALITY, we get excited every time the phone rings or another contact form is filled out. That’s because we LOVE what we do. And we look forward to doing it for YOU!