CSI Helps Community Launch Air Pollution Monitoring Program in Puerto Rico

PEÑUELAS NEIGHBORHOOD STARTS TO MONITOR AIR POLLUTION  WITH EPA-APPROVED PLAN

DISUR Project in Tallaboa-Encarnación Aims to Improve Air Quality for Families Living Next to Petrochemical Corridor

Peñuelas, Puerto Rico (February 15, 2016) — For the first time ever in Puerto Rico, citizens are using an EPA-approved plan to test for air pollution in their neighborhood. The non-profit Desarrollo Integral del Sur, Inc. (DISUR) is leading the initiative called Healthy Lungs, Now! in collaboration with residents of Tallaboa-Encarnacion, a Peñuelas neighborhood that began testing for volatile organic compounds and diesel soot on January 31. The community has already taken nearly a dozen samples and is awaiting the results of laboratory analysis.

DISUR consultant Denny Larson trained 10 residents of Tallaboa-Encarnación in how to monitoring air quality. For the next three-months, neighbors will alert trained Citizen Scientists to strange outdoor odors with the goal of identifying a soup of ambient air pollutants that are provoking high incidents of asthma and other ailments in the community.

“This was one of the most active, intelligent and attentive groups I’ve trained,” said Larson, the executive director of the Community Science Institute for Toxic Crime Investigation and a 30-year veteran in citizen-based air quality monitoring, as well as the innovator of the community sampling method known as the Bucket Brigade.

“Across the world there is a long history of citizen participation in science projects,” said David Southgate, DISUR project manager. “Typically residents are able to respond more quickly more quickly than agencies at a significantly lower cost.”

DISUR and its broad Environmental Justice consortium will use this new environmental data to help the 200-plus families in the community to reduce their exposure to airborne toxins. Other collaborators working to solve the air quality issue include neighborhood leaders, the neighborhood local public school and parents association, the City of Peñuelas, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the Ponce Health Sciences University, local industry, and the Puerto Rico legislature.

Tallaboa-Encarnación has a decades-long history of environmental disasters polluting air and putting the health and lives of neighbors in danger. A 2012 epidemiological study by the School of Public Health at the Ponce Health Sciences University documented the health impact on residents’ respiratory system, further justifying DISUR’s intervention. EPA’s interest in the project followed DISUR’s submission of a successful Environmental Justice proposal.


 

DISUR is a Puerto Rico-based non-profit corporation. Its intention is to promote and maximize competitiveness and socio-economic sustainability in the south region of Puerto Rico, integrating the efforts and resources of the public, private, and academic sectors, along area residents to achieve a better quality of life.

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