Prove your humanity

A Pennsylvania environmental group says infrastructure designed to protect Hispanic and Latino communities from deadly air pollution is lacking in the state.

A community in Las Vegas recently received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to install Purple Air monitors in public areas as part of their “Buen Aire Para Todos” program. The monitors are meant to track the amounts of pollutants like ozone, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide in the air. 

ImpactNV, which received the $200,000 grant, says the hope is that by having more direct access to air quality information, surrounding communities can learn about the pollution problem in their neighborhoods and be alerted of dangerous amounts of that pollution through an app or online. 

Delaware County plan

Echo Alford, a community organizer for the Clean Air Council, said it has an almost identical plan in Delaware County.

“We are seeking funding to place more of these open source Purple Air monitors in the community at residents’ homes so that they can then be involved in reading the information, sharing that with our neighbors, talking to each other about what’s happening,” Alford said.

“Because something that we see a ton in my community is people posting on our neighborhood Facebook groups about the smells – the gas smells, the chemicals smells, the headaches, the nosebleeds.”

Right now, the Department of Environmental Protection has monitors across Pennsylvania that test air quality and warn communities of dangerous levels of pollutants.

But many city monitors are only set up to detect one or two of these harmful pollutants, leaving people in the dark about their air quality otherwise.

They’re seeking funding to cover the distribution of those monitors in the Marcus Hook and Chester areas.

They hope to share the data with “local stakeholders to advocate for increased oversight, more community engagement, better health and safety measures, and ultimately better public health outcomes.”

Delaware County is 4.5% Hispanic or Latino and over 23% Black or African American alone. 

The county received consistent Ds on its 2022 air quality ‘report card’ from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air analysis. It had a 20-year history of failing air quality grades from 1998 to 2018.

Bucks, Allegheny, and Philadelphia counties, which include 1.5 million people of color, are wading in even deeper waters. They each received an ‘F’ in the ALA’s report.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.