As you’ve all probably noticed, air quality has been terrible in the US this summer. If you have spare department funds, purchasing and installing a “Purple Air” air quality meter might be a useful public service for your school’s community. The meters cost about $250 and send data to a continually updated map. The EPA maintains a “gispub airnow” official map using their own sensors, but their map pulls fine particulate matter (PM2.5) Air Quality Index data from the Purple Air dataset.

Is PM2.5 really that bad? Yes. Elizabeth and Richard Muller have an (epidemiology-based) memo detailing that breathing air at PM2.5 levels about 22 µg/m3 for a day is equivalent to smoking a cigarette, so one summer morning’s air in Winona at 167 µg/m3 was the cardiac/pulmonary equivalent of 7–8 cigarettes.

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