A new community-level project will allow residents to measure air quality in Ottawa by simply taking a walk, riding a bike or pushing a baby stroller.
The Breathe Easy campaign — a partnership between Ecology Ottawa and the Ottawa chapter of Sierra Club Canada — will provide monitors to volunteers (or air-trackers as they’re calling them) to identify areas of good and poor air quality in the city.
The monitors will measure levels of pollutants such as ozone gas, nitrogen dioxide and “particulate” matter – small particles floating in the air made up of harmful substances such as carbon and sulfur.
This data will then be uploaded to an online map based on each monitor’s GPS co-ordinates so that online users will be able to identify air pollution hot spots.
The project and its monitors, which cost about $500 each, is being supported by the Ottawa Community Foundation, a local philanthropic organization.
For retired engineer Jake Cole, a volunteer with the Sierra Club, it’s critical that people have access to information about the air they breathe.
“Air quality is possibly the most fundamental thing that we need to have to survive. From the very first breath we take as little babies to our very last breath on Earth, it’s something we cannot live for more than maybe two minutes without,” said Cole. “And yet I don’t think any of us think about it. We just get up and do our thing and think everything’s fine.”