The Effect of Declaring State of Emergency in Response to COVID‑19 on Air Quality in the City of Kitchener
Similar to other countries around the world, Ontario declared a State of Emergency on March 17, 2020 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Pollutant maps from NASA, the European Space Agency, and air quality monitoring stations showed drastic reduction in NO2 levels over China, Italy, Paris, and San Francisco. Air pollution is recognized as a public health issue and an invisible killer by the World Health Organization. Air quality indices for large geographic regions are often based on a single monitoring location using a US EPA reference, or equivalent, methods. However, air quality can vary significantly over short spatial and temporal scales due to factors such as topography, meteorology, and source distribution.
Hemmera Envirochem Inc., the City of Kitchener, and Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh, of Wilfrid Laurier University, are pursuing a joint industry/municipal/academia project to conduct air quality monitoring using “low-cost” sensor systems during and post the COVID‑19 lockdown. The use of “low-cost” sensors is an emerging application in the study of air quality in cities and municipalities and allows for the mapping of large spatial scales with a dense network due to their low cost. The sensors chosen to monitor carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and PM2.5, along side meteorological parameters such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction and noise levels, where feasible. They will be installed at local schools since school kids are a vulnerable group to diseases caused by air pollution.
Our proposal to use low cost sensors will address a societal need for access to real time information on the quality of the air they breathe wherever they are and drafting by-laws that aim at reducing air pollution. In the long term, we also envision engagement from the public in this project through Citizen Science projects, where people work with project partners in installing the sensors in their backyard.