My name is Anna Mulhern and I’m a summer intern with the non-profit Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), an environmental health and justice research and advocacy organization. Purple Air sensors were a key part of our recent Community- Based Environmental Health Field Institute, where participants from communities throughout the state of Alaska learned about water and air pollution and testing, as well as shared their own knowledge and experiences surrounding environmental health and injustice. Held in Nome, Alaska, the 2022 Field Institute had around 30 participants, the majority of whom are Alaska Native and members of communities from throughout the Norton Sound region.
During the Institute, we talked about air pollution with an emphasis on PM2.5. At the Field Institute, participants completed a community mapping exercise, drawing their communities and labeling sources of pollution. Below is a photo of two of the participants from Savoonga Alaska sharing their map demonstrating concern about fine particulates from landfill burning being windswept toward their village. The PurpleAir monitors will help assess their exposure and guide decision making for the future. With the donation of four sensors from Purple Air and those that we purchased, we were able to send Purple Air sensors home with participants from each of the communities represented at the Institute and they will soon set them up to monitor air quality. Places where participants are installing the sensors include outside schools, tribal council offices, community centers, and homes.
Due to a long history of environmental racism, many sources of air pollution are located near Alaska Native communities. Having data on PM2.5 air pollution that is easily accessible to community members is an important way that communities can know what pollutants are present in the air, and where.
Another ACAT intern, Lauren, has spent the summer researching and mapping on GIS all of the major air pollution sources in the state of Alaska. In future posts Lauren will elaborate on her research, as well as share stories and quotes from participants in ACAT’s Field Institute who are currently in the process of setting up the PurpleAir monitors in their communities.