By Gabriela Estrada, Listening Circles Program Manager
Mapping the data for Central Solano County neighborhoods determined which would benefit the most from air monitoring
In Central Solano County, poor air quality is a top concern because pollution from various sources, whether traffic or wildfires, can create a harmful environment, particularly for people who already have health conditions such as asthma or heart problems. But in Vacaville and Suisun City, air monitors that could track pollutants and particulate matter in the air and offer valuable information to residents are lacking. This is worrisome, especially when you take into account the high asthma rates in Central Solano County, indicating people who would benefit from real-time air quality monitoring. Air monitors can be a great way to measure air pollution and help individuals actively avoid going outside on overly contaminated days and also try to implement measures to curb pollution.
It has been difficult to know exactly where to place these monitors, but after some initial data analysis from the Cal EPA EnviroScreen 3.0, Sustainable Solano was able to take 50 census tracts from Fairfield, Suisun and Vacaville and narrow them down to 10 neighborhoods where there was an immediate need to improve the air quality due to the high number of people living there with cardiovascular disease, asthma and socioeconomic challenges. After these sites were selected, we began to host neighborhood Listening Circle meetings with the objective of finding how our organization could support the vision residents had for their communities. We were only able to hold two Listening Circles (one more successful than the other) in Suisun City and Vacaville.
Sustainable Solano’s Listening Circles program began out of a need to educate communities about the environmental hazards affecting them, and to ask individuals living in these neighborhoods how they would like to transform their neighborhoods into resilient and thriving spaces where everyone could be happy and healthy.
While the Listening Circles had to come to an abrupt stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of purpose that we feel towards residents of Solano County has not stopped. At the first Listening Circle in Vacaville, community members said they wanted to be knowledgeable about the quality of their air and water. Toward this goal, we were able to purchase PurpleAir monitors that community members could use at no cost to them. These monitors (no bigger than 5 inches) will measure Diesel Particulate Matter 2.5 concentration. Diesel PM 2.5 can come from on-road sources (vehicles) and off-road (ships or trains) and is concentrated near ports, rail yards and freeways. These ultrafine particles are known to contain cancer-causing chemicals, and carry a strong connection to cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, including asthma and lung cancer. Sensitive populations already suffering from these diseases can become even more susceptible due to these environmental conditions.
The PurpleAir monitors connect to a WiFi network and can be placed outside homes, community buildings, churches or schools. The data can be accessed via the PurpleAir website, allowing for people to monitor when the air quality is worse and take actions to protect those who are most vulnerable. With the fire season coming up it will be especially important to track air quality, and it is also important for individuals who have asthma or other conditions that can be exacerbated by poor air quality.
If you or someone you know might be interested in hosting one of these air monitors FREE of charge and you live in Vacaville Neighborhood 1 or Suisun City neighborhoods identified in the map below please feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 339-8623. Participants will get a free air monitor, free set-up and configuration and will play an instrumental part in informing their neighborhoods of the quality of their immediate air. I hope to hear from you!