Two of these “Soot Trackers” Are On Their Way to Downwinders…and You

Thanks to a grant from the Simmons Sisters Foundation, Downwinders is proud to announce we’ve purchased our first two portable Particulate Matter sensors for our No Safe Level Campaign against PM pollution.

They’ll be the only PM monitors of their kind in the region, and their arrival will inaugurate a new era in DFW citizen-empowered science.

The sensors are made by AEROQUAL, a New Zealand company, and you can’t find them on Amazon. They measure both PM 10 and PM 2.5 (microns) at the same time. Their sensor heads use laser and optical sensors to measure light scattered from particles passing through the laser beam. A built-in fan ensures a stable and precise flow of sample air to the sensor. They also compensate for humidity by way of an on-board humidity sensor.

Each comes with a long-life Lithium battery which allows for 24 hours of remote operation between charges. Recharging takes just 3 hours. The monitor can be plugged-in and left to run indefinitely. Besides displaying levels in real time, measurements can be stored on the device and downloaded later to a computer via the USB cable and bundled software.

They come factory-calibrated to European Union standards and are capable of being re-calibrated for side-by-side use with an EPA monitors, or any other local baseline.

These monitors have two parts – a base and a a detachable sensor head – making them even more useful. In the future Downwinders can buy other kinds of sensors from AEROQUAL to plug into the base and test for gaseous pollutants like Ozone, or Sulfur Dioxide. In all, 28 other sensors are available.

Before now you either had to buy $16,000 PM sensors that were fully calibrated or settle for much less reliable equipment. But the technology is moving so quickly and demand is scaling up so fast that a middle-income niche market for scientifically-rigorous instruments is beginning to provide opportunities to non-profit groups like Downwinders, and the public in general.

Along with these portable sensors, we’re also ordering stationary PM monitors as part of the regional network being established by UTD and others.

As a result of this influx of technology, Downwinders is creating a PM Project Science Director position to maintain the integrity of our research. The Science Director will be in charge of these monitors, training citizens on how to operate them, and overseeing their use in the field.

Our plans are to begin using the sensors in neighborhoods and suspected hot spots as soon as possible to help us fill out our PM Map of DFW. We want to be able to loan them out to those citizens who’ve gone through the training and have a problem they want to investigate. They’ll also be available for use during accidents, explosions, and fires.

We’re not letting state and EPA rollbacks stop us. We’re creating our own regional air monitoring network. Are you interested in joining? Stand by. We’re just getting started.


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