Engaging local communities in air sampling

A collaborative project between Oregon State University and Natural Opus

In May 2015, students in the Public Health class on Exposure Science taught by Laurel Kincl had the opportunity to work with a local community organization. Kincl invited Perry Hystad, who is an expert on air quality, to teach the students about air sampling in a community. Kincl and Hystad are both assistant professors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR). Kincl is the Director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Core, a core facility of the Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC), where Hystad is an EHSC investigator. The EHSC is funded by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

The students worked with Jeff Schiminsky, President and Founder of Natural Opus, a community organization based in Philomath, OR, a small town located 6 miles west of Corvallis. Natural Opus recruited five residents, and the students deployed particulate matter monitors (Dylos 1700) for several days on the properties of the residents. The students also collected short term samples in locations around town identified by residents. The students worked with the EHSC to prepare and return results to the community participants.

The success of this project led to a second project in south Corvallis. In the initial sampling phase, Natural Opus recruited 5 residents in south Corvallis along a main highway (OR 99W) to participate. This area has had long-standing air quality concerns, as related by Natural Opus.

Natural Opus worked directly with the EHSC to be trained to use the Dylos 1700 monitors and to engage the community members in the air sampling campaign. These monitors measure particulate matter. Sampling took place June 17-23rd and the results were reported back to participants in early July. The EHSC worked with Natural Opus to develop easy-to-read, informative reports to return the data to the participants.

During the sampling event, participants were highly engaged in the process and reported satisfaction with the hands-on approach and enjoyed the ability to read the monitors in real-time. Participants also expressed a desire for continued monitoring and increased opportunities for participation, such as neighborhood meetings to discuss the data, and neighborhood walks to sample air quality in parks, neighborhoods and other public areas.

Participants received the results from their property, as well as a graph showing the data from their property in context with the other properties sampled.