"Check Out" Your Air Quality Beginning in 2016

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 1:53 PM

With an increase in gas infrastructure imminent for the future, we are facing more risks for the air that we breathe in our homes, at our jobs, and even outside.

Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, recognized this and worked to combat the possible side effects. Illah's location in Pittsburgh is especially important, as it is where a lot of early fracking took place.

“When fracking started, people didn’t know if they were being harmed by their water and air. Their tap water could be set on fire. Their horse’s hair might be falling out. People felt completely disempowered,” he said (UTNE).

Rather than having people wait on air monitoring agencies to measure the air and examine the data, Illah and his colleague, Beatrice Dias, decided it was time for people to take monitoring into their own hands. Using grants from Heinz and the Fine Foundation, they invented the Speck air monitor.

  
The Speck Monitor is the size of an alarm clock and provides easy-to-interpret readings.


The Speck Monitor is noted for its ability to measure the amount of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter. This particulate is notorious for causing inflammation throughout the body and for exacerbating diseases of the heart and lungs.

Great, I can monitor my air - but what's it going to cost me?

Nothing.

That's right. Nothing. "To facilitate community access and collaboration, Nourbakhsh and his cohorts created a pilot public library program in Pittsburgh, donating several Speck monitors to be loaned like books" (UTNE).

Sometimes it can feel as if only the rich are able to keep themselves healthy, whether it's with expensive medical care or through expensive gadgets such as the Speck Monitor. Nourbakhsh and Dias's insight into this problem allowed them to make the monitor available to anyone and everyone.

The best part is that, even if it takes you a couple months to get your hands on one (community demand is expected to be high), communities can check neighbors' monitors on SpeckSensor.com, a website that shows user uploads of their own home monitor levels. The idea is that communities, especially in places with a lot of apartments or shared homes, can get an idea of the levels they are facing before getting an exact reading.

UTNE

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