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EPA grant will fund better air quality monitors in Southwest Ohio

A map of the Cincinnati area with colored dots to indicate air quality in certain areas. All but one of the dots is green; one is yellow.
Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency
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A snapshot of the real-time map of air quality in southwest Ohio. Each dot is a monitor in the system that uploads data 24/7. The EPA grant will fund the purchase of two new monitors to add to the system.

Cincinnatians will soon have more data about local air quality thanks to an EPA grant. The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency is getting about $180,000 for new monitors that will send data 24 hours a day. The information will be added to a map that shows real-time data about air quality in the area.

“If you see, for example, a yellow or an orange dot, that means the air pollution is quite literally collecting in our local environment,” said Joy Landry, communications specialist for Hamilton County Environmental Services.

The two new monitors will be added to 10 others already in place. The full system includes Butler, Hamilton, Clermont, and Warren counties.

The information could be especially helpful to people living in neighborhoods with much higher rates of asthma, like Avondale, Over-the-Rhine, and North and South Fairmount.

The new monitors will specifically look for small particulate matter that can come from things like smoke and burning diesel fuel.

“The concern is, the smaller the particle, the easier it is to eventually get into our lung tissue,” Landry said. “Long term, like lifelong exposure to particulates can be akin to being a lifelong smoker, where you might see potential health outcomes, problems, from that type of exposure in your lung tissue.”

Particulate matter isn’t the kind of pollution that will make climate change worse over time, but climate change can make this kind of pollution more dangerous.

High temperatures are closely correlated with stagnate air, which can lead to a build-up of pollutants in the air. A recent analysis of federal data found the relationship between heat and stagnation is especially strong in Cincinnati.

Landry says air quality overall has dramatically improved since the early 1990s, thanks in large part to the Clean Air Act.

“Now the challenge is we want to keep doing better, right?” Landry said. “I feel like all of us have a role to play in helping protect our air quality. That can be simple things like try not to idle your car when you're picking someone up at the airport or if you're picking up a student from school.”

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.