TL;DR — Regulators play an essential role in transforming the insights from air quality monitoring data into policy initiatives that make an impact on air pollution reductions and public health outcomes. The integration of newer technologies like low-cost air quality sensors with existing reference-grade monitoring equipment allows regulators to access more local and real-time data and, thus, design policies that target pollution sources or areas with the highest need. By creating collaborative partnerships between regulators and community, analyst, and technology stakeholders, Air Quality Management 2.0 fosters programs that have a long-term positive impact on air quality.

This blog is part of a series focusing on the concept of Air Quality Management 2.0, which aims to link together key stakeholders, from communities to industries, in the work to create sustainable air quality management programs and improve public health when it comes to the negative impacts of air pollution. Read our white paper on Air Quality Management 2.0 here.

Regulators’ role in effective air quality management

Though the collection of air quality data can offer great insights into what is happening regarding air quality in a given area, regulatory action is key to actually reducing emissions and implementing changes that positively impact public health. 

Data offers insight into where and when people are most exposed to air pollution, as well as an ability to track the impacts of policy initiatives — but until recently, regulators have relied exclusively on traditional regulatory air monitoring approaches and have not had access to reliable, local-scale air quality data. Fortunately, with new technologies like air quality sensors, they can now collect air quality data to inform their decision-making at much higher resolution. 

As a regulator, comprehensive data equips you to identify and characterize pollution sources, hotspots and trends”

— Sean Wihera

The combination of high-quality air quality data, along with leadership and coordination provided by regulatory bodies, is what drives impactful change.

Direct policy consultation enables evidence-based air quality planning, from selecting locations for regulatory monitors to designing and evaluating emissions control programs”

— Sean Wihera

As a result, policies can be designed to effectively target major pollution sources, whether these are tighter industrial permitting, vehicle restrictions, or cleaner fuel mandates.

Collaboration between impacted communities and regulators is particularly important to build trust in air quality management and ensure that action aligns with community priorities.

Regulatory partnerships for more effective air quality management

Now we’ll explore a handful of successful partnerships with regulatory bodies that have made a significant positive impact on air quality.

In California, Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) deployed a network of 25 low-cost sensors across more than 20 municipalities, bringing access to local, real-time data to over 750,000 residents, many of whom had expressed concern for air pollution levels, especially during times of wildfire.

MBARD wanted to establish a low-cost sensor network to support the existing regulatory-grade network in place in order to provide real-time data that was easily accessible to the public.

Read more about MBARD’s work here.

Boulder County, Colorado experienced the devastating Marshall Fire in 2021, which destroyed over 1,000 homes and severely damaged air quality with thousands of acres of land covered in wildfire smoke.

Following this devastating event, Boulder County implemented a network of low-cost sensors to address public concerns about how this wildfire event had impacted human and environmental health.

Residents were especially concerned with whether it was safe for them to return to their homes following the fire — meaning it was crucial for the air quality monitoring network to provide data at the neighborhood level to help community residents make informed decisions about safe activities in the aftermath of the fire.

Learn more about Boulder County’s air quality monitoring here.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) was seeking an effective way to flexibly monitor air quality and provide air pollution data to community residents in the face of air quality events such as wildfires, traffic congestion, construction projects, and industrial activities.

DDPHE officials place air quality sensors in pollution hotspots to determine residents’ exposure levels and, thus, respond flexibly to resident concerns.

You can read more about Denver’s network here.

In Sacramento, California, the Sac Metro Air District is responsible for air quality monitoring. In the face of growing concern over frequent wildfires in recent years, the district has wanted a way to provide localized, real-time data to residents.

By deploying a network of low-cost sensors, the Sac Metro Air District expanded its spatial coverage and addressed resident concerns about air pollution levels at schools and workplaces in their neighborhoods.

The network has also been used to compile evidence of smoke impacts after wildfire events and address a wider range of air pollutants, such as air toxics, to understand the full impacts of wildfire.

Read more about Sac Metro Air District’s work here.

Making regulatory partnerships a part of the picture for cleaner air

Because regulatory action is a key part of reducing emissions and implementing initiatives that protect public health, it is crucial that regulators are in partnership with other stakeholders to make an effective impact.

Download the Air Quality Management 2.0 white paper here to learn more about the importance of engaging key stakeholders in partnership for meaningful air quality improvement, including communities, regulators, analysts, and technologies.

Interested in measuring air quality for cleaner air and a healthier climate? Get in touch with our team to learn more about our Sensing-as-a-Service solution for governments, businesses, and community organizations, using our Clarity Node-S monitors and Modules.