Free Air Quality Monitoring Sensors Available in Your Community

Air quality monitoring helps communities make informed decisions about public health. Currently, real-time air quality monitoring is available for 80% of people in Canada – most of whom live in urban areas. This leaves 20% of the population with air quality monitoring that does not tell an accurate story of the conditions in their community. The Meteorological Services of Canada (MSC) is trying to change that.

MSC is focused on installing sensors in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities to close the identified gaps in air quality data reporting across Canada. MSC is conducting a 5-year study on the use of low-cost air particulate monitors to increase the percentage of communities with access to accurate air quality data. Most air quality sensors cost upwards of $100,000 to install in addition to the regular maintenance costs. Such sensors capture ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and air particulate matter measurements (PM2.5). MSC are using the low-cost PurpleAir sensors in the study. These sensors cost under $500 to install and capture air particulate measurements. Studies have shown that it is the presence of increased levels of air particulate pollutants that have the highest impact on health.

The data that is collected by the PurpleAir sensors is displayed on an open online map. The current data can be seen here https://cyclone.unbc.ca/aqmap. The map updates every hour, so the air quality index that is shown is a real-time measure of the particulate matter present in a community. This enables communities to track the air quality with changing wildfire conditions and make recommendations to vulnerable members of the community or the general population based on scientifically founded markers of air quality and their associated health risks.

Installing a sensor in your community is easy. All that is required is a power source and a Wi-Fi connection. Most communities will only need one or two sensors, depending on changes in elevation. The team at MSC provides guidance on installation and data interpretation, as well as tips for using the data in community education and decision making.

Communities interested in installing a sensor in their community are invited to apply to MSC by submitting their address, and the proposed location of the sensor to celine.audette@ec.gc.ca then a member of your regional MSC team will contact you with further details.

MSC is focusing on installing sensors in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities to close the identified gaps in air quality data reporting across Canada. Priority will be given to communities with high numbers of people with respiratory conditions, that have experienced impacts from wildfire smoke/evacuations, that have a pre-existing Wi-Fi connection, and are in areas with an identified gap in air quality monitoring.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to include your community in this study and help close the gap in air particulate matter monitoring in Indigenous communities across Canada.