A montage of screenshots from the PurpleAir sensor network map

Citizen Particulate Monitoring

Pollution from residential wood burning is localized. Screenshot of a PurpleAir map detail demonstrating the localized nature of high particulate readings from wood burningAs we’ve noted elsewhere, residential wood burning creates islands of neighborhood air pollution that are not fully reflected in official monitoring numbers. In most communities, there are few (if any) official air pollution sensors, and they are rarely located in areas that are most affected by wood smoke pollution.


As consumer-level monitoring devices have become more affordable and available, an increasing number of “citizen scientists” have been setting up their own home-based particulate sensors in order to get a better picture of their exposure to particulate pollution.


We have teamed up with PurpleAir, which sells Wi-Fi-connected laser particle counters. The particulate counts from the sensors are displayed in real time on an online map, making it easy to see how local air quality is affected by localized sources of pollution, especially wood burning.


In locations where several sensors are installed, such as in Gabriola Island in British Columbia (57.6 square kilometers, or 22.2 square miles in area) some houses can be seen to have healthy air with low particulate counts, while polluted air from wood burning is reflected by monitors elsewhere.


Screenshot of a PurpleAir map detail In neighborhoods with multiple wood-burning households, the particulate counts can grow accordingly, as the example from Parksville, British Columbia shows in the accompanying image.


The PurpleAir monitoring network currently is concentrated in North America, although it is expanding internationally, with monitors now in Australia and several countries in Europe and Asia.


For more information about PurpleAir sensors, visit purpleair.com.


Citizen Particulate Monitoring References


For resources, please follow these links: