- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Expands Air Quality Monitoring Project to Track Pollution Levels in Pioneer Valley Communities
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey today announced she is funding the installation of 10 new air quality monitors in Northampton, Hadley, Amherst, Deerfield, Athol, Orange, Sunderland, and Palmer. The new air quality monitors will expand the Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network, a collaborative partnership with municipal, public health, and environmental leaders to provide important public health information and to support communities, in a region that has been disproportionately impacted by environmental injustices in their effort to make the Pioneer Valley a healthier place to live.
The Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network, funded by the AG’s Office and established in 2021 to allow residents across the region to measure air pollution levels in their neighborhoods, currently includes 75 long-term monitors in Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Greenfield, Westfield, and Easthampton. The project is supported by Yale University, the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, Bay State Health, ReGreen Springfield, the City of Springfield and other community organizations. Data from the monitors is uploaded in real time to the Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network’s website, which was launched last spring and developed in coordination with the AG’s Office and residents in the region. The website provides an interactive map of the Pioneer Valley with live data from the monitors that change color based on measured air quality, as well as health-based precautions for families to take to protect themselves if high levels of air pollution are detected.
“For far too long, families in the Pioneer Valley have been unjustly burdened with environmental pollution and their health has suffered as a result,” AG Healey said. “Thanks to the help of our partners and the guidance of community members, we are putting the region on the path to cleaner air by expanding this important initiative into new cities and towns, providing more residents with the tools they need to protect themselves from the serious health risks posed by air pollution.”
“I am pleased to partner with communities across Western Massachusetts on this collaborative project supported by the Office of the Attorney General,” said Dr. Krystal Pollitt, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Science at Yale University School of Public Health. “The Healthy Air Network provides residents with high-quality measurements of local air quality. This information will be criterial in identifying actionable solutions that address local air pollution issues.”
“The Town is pleased to support the expansion of the air monitoring project into Amherst. As home to large environmental justice communities that house low-income residents and people of color, it is important that we understand the relationship between poor air quality and health disparities,” said Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman. “We appreciate the initiative to better understand the impact on public health and, importantly, to share this information with members of the community.”
“We are very excited to have the monitor and look forward to the next few months when most of our temperature inversions occur,” said Carolyn Ness, member of the Deerfield Selectboard and chair of the Board of Health. “Having the ability to determine the amount pollutants in the air will allow us to inform and warn our residents most affected by health problems such as asthma.”
The air monitoring project is part of AG Healey’s Clean Air Initiative, which is focused on tackling air pollution that disproportionately impacts historically marginalized communities in cities like Springfield and Palmer. AG Healey announced the project and the installation of 80 air quality sensors in Springfield on Earth Day in 2021. The AG's Office is using the data from the monitors to guide its enforcement efforts in the region and is prioritizing its investigations in communities that have been disproportionately burdened with environmental injustices. Residents are using the monitors and website to keep an eye on pollution in their neighborhoods. The wildfires in the region over the summer resulted in periods of poor air quality and residents turned to the website for guidance on what types of outdoor activities to avoid.
“I wanted to have an air sensor at my home because I could see the future importance of collecting this information,” said Samantha Hamilton, a Springfield resident who has a monitor at her home. “There is so much value in knowing when it is the best time to walk, play and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle in my neighborhood. With the changes in the climate, this information will become critical and possibly lifesaving over time.”
The new monitors, which will be located in Northampton, Hadley, Amherst, Deerfield, Athol, and Sunderland, will be placed on municipal buildings, homes (by request), health care provider offices, and other areas of interest. The monitors in Orange and Palmer will be placed at Massachusetts Department of Transportation maintenance depots.
The expansion of the network will allow for more residents of the Pioneer Valley to understand air quality conditions in their neighborhoods. Additionally, the data provided by the new monitors expands the information available to help understand sources of air pollution in the region, and how air quality impact asthma rates. The Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network was informed by input from a community advisory board made up of residents in the region whose feedback helped determine the content of the website and the location of the air monitors in communities.
Poor air quality is linked to higher rates of asthma and other chronic health conditions. Each year, more than 200,000 people nationwide die from lung and heart disease caused by air pollution. Fine particulate matter pollution is the largest environmental health risk factor in the country and increased exposure to the pollutant is linked to higher rates of COVID-19 and other serious respiratory issues.
Advocating for clean air has long been a priority of the AG’s Environmental Protection Division, which successfully fought to reduce the amount of harmful ozone, particulate matter, and other dangerous air pollution that afflicts Massachusetts communities, including the substantial pollution from sources like power plants, factories, and cars in upwind states.
In May 2020, AG Healey issued a brief on the environmental factors, including elevated exposure to particulate matter pollution, that has compounded the pandemic’s disparate impact on Black and Hispanic communities in Massachusetts, and the steps the state should take to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on those communities, including the installation of robust networks of air quality monitors to track hot spots of particle pollution within vulnerable neighborhoods. The brief also stressed the importance of working closely with communities that have long been underserved to remedy the environmental injustice and its attendant public health harms.
For more information on the Pioneer Valley Healthy Air Network and to view the interactive website, click here.
This project is being overseen by Assistant Attorney General Emily Mitchell Field of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.