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NC Asthma Cases Prompt Push for Hyperlocal Air Monitoring

Personal sensors allow people to monitor air quality in real time in their communities. (Clean Air Carolina)
Personal sensors allow people to monitor air quality in real time in their communities. (Clean Air Carolina)
October 17, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. – After spending decades treating people with severe asthma, a retired emergency room physician is calling for local air quality monitors in every North Carolina county.

Dr. Robert Parr, along with the nonprofit organization Clean Air Carolina, helped install stationary air quality monitors in New Hanover County.

"After looking through the medical research, I realized that I was treating these people on a temporary basis, because oftentimes, I was discharging them into an environment with dirty air,” Parr explains. “And that dirty air was actually the cause of why they came into the emergency room in the first place."

Poor air quality is linked to respiratory and heart complications.

And according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths globally.

Right now there are monitors in 86 counties.

Calvin Cupini, citizen science program manager for Clean Air Carolina, says his group is working with people to acquire and install air sensors in communities in all of the state's 100 counties.

He adds North Carolina would be among the first to undertake a citizen science project of this size.

"We'd be in direct competition with California,” he states. “It would really say something for North Carolina to have a project like this, with so many different partners."

Parr says the local sensors allow residents to check their air quality in real time. Air sensitive individuals can gauge whether or not it's OK to mow the lawn, go for a run, or be outside for long periods of time.

"So I was treating patients with prednisone, inhalers, sometimes antibiotics if their asthmatic symptoms led to a bacterial infection,” he explains. “Where, if they actually knew the quality of their air that they were breathing on a daily basis, then they might be able to avoid that air."

Parr also points out that people living near industrial areas are more prone to developing health problems from breathing polluted air.

Disclosure: Clean Air Carolina contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC