Mail Icon Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Share
NEWS & EVENTS Subscribe to rss news feed  

 

Illah Nourbakhsh
Huffington Post
Feb. 26, 2015

 

I have written before about air quality as an issue for community-centered deliberation and action, and as a place where technology fluency can change the world. Air quality is never far from recent news tropes; but the past month we have witnessed an explosion in coverage, and for good reason. Studies have found new correlations between bad air, ADHD and autism. Add that to well-known epidemiological links to cardiovascular disease and, of course, asthma.

 

The amount of air quality suffering globally is truly staggering; and now comes the newest report: more than half of all residents of India live in such polluted air that more than three years is shaved off their lifespan. That’s 2.1 billion life-years lost, and that is just India, never mind China, Indonesia and countless other countries. My own beloved Pittsburgh suffers through 230 days of bad air every year, and even San Francisco, blessed by ocean winds, witnessed terrible air quality for nearly two weeks just last month. No doubt: air pollution is causing a global health crisis.

 

Awareness is always the first step. Just as U.S. air monitors atop embassies in China changed the conversation about air quality countrywide, so we need Americans to see invisible air particulates. Use Federal air quality data to see your neighborhood’s pollution profile, for example using your zip code at specksensor.org. For calibration, zero to 10 micrograms is great; 20 is moderate, and the Chicago study showed that 100 means a three-year cut to lifespan. Air pollution is also a major contributor to environmental injustice; a black carbon map of Pittsburgh, released this month, shows that the homes near Pittsburgh’s highways and in our valleys suffer from far greater levels of pollution — the pollution picture correlates frighteningly with a chart of Pittsburgh neighborhoods by income distribution.

 

We also need to measure indoor air pollution particulates so we learn whether we can control for our children’s asthma triggers. Technology will not save us from air pollution; but technology designed right will empower us to understand our pollution exposure and learn how to triage effectively.

 

Air pollution is a rapidly heightening concern, and it will not go away with a magic, technological salve. But we must aim our technical inventiveness at creating sensors and visualizations that will empower communities to come to grips with the scale and urgency of the problem, block by block. Particulates kill more in the U.S. than AIDS, breast cancer and prostate cancer put together. Literally 50 percent of us are at risk because of air pollution, although 100 percent of us have the human right to breathe easy.

 

Illah Nourbakhsh is the author of Robot Futures, Director of the CREATE Lab and Head of the Robotics Master’s Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

events
September 27, 2017
Petrochemical America: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley Will Pittsburgh forget the lessons learned from its toxic past in writing the next chapter for its future?   Several organizations concerned about the region’s air quality, environment and future have come together to present a multimedia exhibition that draws … Learn More
August 10, 2017
GASP Air Fair   “GASP for Clean Air! Sources, Symptoms, and Solutions” is an art exhibit put on by GASP and hosted at Assemble throughout August 2017. This family-friendly exhibit focuses on air quality issues impacting Southwestern PA and what they mean for … Learn More
October 17, 2017
Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training Comes to Pittsburgh Join Climate Reality for their Leadership Corps training and work with former US Vice President Al Gore and renowned climate scientists and communicators to learn about what’s happening to our planet and how you can use social media, powerful storytelling, … Learn More
May 22, 2017
Green City Remix Explores Social Change through Air Quality and Art   Celebrate the first youth designed exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center. The Opening Celebration will showcase an art installation crafted by cohorts of high school learners from seven area schools. The students spent several months exploring the … Learn More
May 3, 2017
Physical Activity, Air Pollution and Asthma in the Urban Environment   Making the Connection Series: Physical Activity, Air Pollution and Asthma in the Urban Environment.   Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir will discuss her research and afterwards there will be a panel of health and community experts to respond to her presentation. … Learn More
April 27, 2017
The People’s Climate March Pittsburgh   The People’s Climate March Pittsburgh will take place in tandem with the march on Washington D.C. from 10 a.m. to noon. Join fellow Pittsburghers in marching for our air, water and land along with clean energy jobs and climate … Learn More
April 25, 2017
Pittsburgh 2030 District Progress Report Reception   Learn about the Green Building Association’s progress in Downtown and Oakland toward achieving emission reduction goals.   April 25, 2017 4-7:00 pm Heinz History Center   Registration required. Learn More
April 25, 2017
Clearing the Air in Clairton   Join Clean Air Council and others for a strategy and goal-setting workshop to identify shared goals in protecting families and children against the risks of industrial pollution.   April 25, 2017 6:30 pm City of Clairton Municipal Building Learn More
See all events
latest on facebook

  • Fatal error: Uncaught OAuthException: Error validating application. Application has been deleted. thrown in /nfs/c09/h05/mnt/133684/domains/breatheproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-feed-grabber/facebook-sdk/base_facebook.php on line 1254