Citizen Science

From its founding in 1994, Downwinders at Risk has been committed to using the best science to help communities in need.

We funded the first examination of the flawed way the State of Texas calculated risks from toxic exposures by noted toxicologist Dr. Marvin LeGator of UT’s Medical Branch in Galveston. Entitled “Sacrificing Science,” the report eventually led to an overhaul in Austin’s methodology.

We did the first (and only) comparative health study between cement plant “downwinders” and “upwinders” in and around Midlothian, revealing high rates of respiratory disease and other ailments among the most affected by the town’s cement plants’ pollution.

We successfully used air modeling results to force Ellis County and its three cement plants into Dallas-Fort Worth’s EPA-classified”non-attainment area for smog.

We funded the first independent use of the State’s own computer model to show how much DFW smog would be reduced, and how many lives would be saved annually if area cement plants, coal plants and gas facilities had better pollution controls.

We publish and catalog peer-reviewed, journal-published studies chronicling the harmful human health effects of air pollution, specifically the wide variety of harms associated with exposure to Particulate Matter (PM) air pollution, tiny inhalable bits of soot from combustion of any sort.  Since 2017, Downwinders’ program work has been focused on the reduction and elimination of PM pollution in DFW.

Our PM Education and Training Committee sponsors monthly free training sessions on the use of our fleet of calibrated Aeroqual hand-held portable PM air monitors. After two trainings, certified “citizen scientists” can check out a monitor for their own use or help Downwinders in its projects. Downwinders is the only group in Texas with its own cache of these high-quality monitors and the only one offering to teach citizens on how they can monitor their neighborhood’s air quality. Downwinders retains the services of Dr. Tate Barrett, a local expert on PM pollution, to interpret our monitor results and advise us on PM pollution issues.

With its partners at the University of Texas at Dallas and Paul Quinn College, Downwinders is building a new regional real time air monitoring network with an emphasis on Particulate Matter air pollution, called “SharedAirDFW.” Over 100 monitors will be deployed from Plano to Midlothian and from Joppa to Fort Worth in the first wave alone. All of these monitors will not only give real time air quality information, they’ll be calibrated in real time as well – constantly matching their results with the nearest EPA monitor.

Over the past quarter-century no DFW group has invested more time or funding in bringing science to the front lines of the fight for clean air.