Project Description

Project Description

Tucson is a rapidly growing city that is determined to avoid violating the EPA health-based air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. This will require a significant effort to educate citizens and decision makers – from school children to government leaders – about the current state of air quality in Tucson and what can be done to improve it. The Tucson metropolitan area is bordered on two sides by Class I Wilderness areas – Saguaro National Park, East and West Units – further complicating the area’s air quality issues. In Tucson, we face the tough decisions of many mid-sized cities on how to maintain our quality of life while facing the problems of rapid growth typical of the southwestern U.S.

Air quality problems are most likely to affect the most sensitive individuals in a population, often the elderly and children. In Tucson there are economically disadvantaged areas with documented rates of pediatric asthma hospital discharges up to three times higher than more prosperous areas. Zip codes 85713 and 85714 have hospital discharge rates for asthma over 15/1000 children per year and include a higher percentage of minorities, particularly Hispanics, than other areas in metropolitan Tucson with lower pediatric asthma rates. At present, very little air quality information is available for these zip codes. The nature and extent of ambient air pollution in these areas and other regions of metropolitan Tucson should be made available to the community. Environmental data collection, management, and reporting, have been effective regulatory tools; however, education and outreach have been slower to develop. Given these significant issues, our consortium proposes the provision of real-time air quality information to Tucson citizens, particularly to susceptible populations.

American Lung Association of Arizona and subcommittee, Asthma Care Alliance of Southern Arizona (ACASA); The University of Arizona Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) and Geography Department. 

The overall project goal is to develop a unified approach among the collaborating agencies for environmental data collection, management, reporting, and education, using air quality as the pilot medium. We will provide the public with accurate, understandable environmental information collected and evaluated using rigorous quality assurance guarantees. The goal will be realized through completion of six specific objectives: 

  1. Establish a standardized format for the collection, archival, and reporting of data between agencies, including, development of a mapping, protocol; 
  2. Use innovative technologies to communicate regional real-time (e.g. hourly) air quality monitoring data to a linked public communication system (including Internet web sites, phone-in information line. radio and television stations. newspapers) 
  3. Provide coordinated outreach and training programs for teachers, media professionals and other stakeholders, with special emphasis on the areas with high asthma admissions. 
  4. Assemble, customize and distribute curricula addressing, the potential health risk of ambient airborne exposures in English and Spanish; 
  5. Conduct air quality studies in economically disadvantaged areas with high minority representation that are known to have increased rates of pediatric asthma and that have been traditionally underserved; and 
  6. Enhance collection of air quality measurements by integrating regulatory compliance monitoring with complementary technologies such as visibility indexing. 

These objectives will be accomplished by providing real-time access to air quality data and information for all participants and stakeholders, some of whom will further distribute information through other media such as television and radio stations, electronic billboards, etc. The public will be provided data through a web site on the Internet as well as a phone-in information line. The information will in turn be provided on other web sites through Internet links. The approach for each objective is detailed below. 

Objective (1) Establish a standardized format for the collection, archival, and reporting of data between agencies, including development of a mapping protocol.

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) will be the lead agency for the Tucson EMPACT project, and will be responsible for establishing the standard format for collection, archival and reporting of air quality data. PDEQ is the designated agency responsible for operating the Tucson area State or Local Air Monitoring Stations (SLAMS) and National Air Monitoring Stations (NAMS) for the EPA Region IX. PDEQ also operates Special Purpose Monitoring Stations (SPMS) and a visibility and urban haze network in the region. All routine air quality monitoring data generated by PDEQ are submitted into the EPA AIRS data base system. The methods used to gather, validate and report the monitoring data are consistent with EPA requirements for the AIRS system, and will be extended to any additional air monitoring data generated under the EMPACT grant. Only data that meet the EPA criteria will be reported to the public or used for educational outreach. 

The University of Arizona Department of Geography and Regional Development will be responsible for Developing, a protocol for mapping, of relevant project data for presentation, including various air quality, meteorological and health-related variables. The collected data will be processed through robust GIS air modeling and mapping protocols and algorithms which will be developed to generate products that will provide the public with visual representations of environmental data. The maps will be processed through a previously developed air quality mapping framework, which is based on detailed analyses of historical reference data. Access to data will be available through the PDEQ Internet web site 

The approach will be to extend the mapping capabilities to provide online access to reference maps and real-time maps. These maps will immediately be made available to the public on the PDEQ web site. This will require development of data protocols and mapping algorithms for automated, real-time use of appropriate air quality, meteorological, and health data. Steps in this process include identification of candidate variables for display, analyzing, spatial and temporal behavior of the selected variables from the monitoring network, identifying, useful interpolation and spatial modeling schemes, selecting appropriate mapping algorithms, and characterizing map accuracy and utility.

Objective (2) Use innovative technologies to communicate regional real-time air quality monitoring data to a linked public communication system (including Internet web sites, phone-in information line, radio and television stations, and newspapers). 

Several comprehensive communications technologies will be employed to accomplish this objective. An interactive web pace will be developed that will display the real-time air monitoring data and maps created from this data. We also propose an expansion of the current Air Quality Index (AQI) reporting system to include additional real-time data and a telephone call-in line. The AQI is the EPA measure by which daily air pollution levels are reported to the public. This is the only current public daily air pollution reporting system used in Tucson. An electronic mailing list (list serve) will also be created to upload AQI reports to interested parties. 

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) air quality monitoring, data acquisition / health effects reporting system currently produces a AQI form twice daily at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. each weekday. These forms are faxed to the local television stations, several school district offices, the Arizona Lung Association, the local newspapers, and several other interested parties. The AQI report has a long historical basis, and translates the pollutant concentrations into easily understandable qualitative descriptors: good, moderate, unhealthful, very unhealthful, and hazardous. 

The AQI report utilizes up to the hour data from PDEQ’s continuous gaseous monitoring network to report levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3). The PSI number for particulates is calculated from PMIO samplers that run from midnight to midnight on the previous calendar day. The collected data undergoes PDEQ established quality assurance procedures before being loaded into a database for conversion to AQI values. The addition of several PM10 samplers to the Tucson monitoring recently will provide additional health-related air quality data for AQI reporting. 

EMPACT funds would be used to add the following capabilities to the PDEQ reporting system: 

  1. Automated dialup PSI voice reports will be available and updated on an hourly basis for individuals without Internet access. 
  2. Real-time hourly PSI data for ozone and carbon monoxide for each monitoring location will be made available on the web site. The latest 24-hour particulate PSI number will also be presented on the web site. 
  3. Near real-time (i.e 5-minute intervals) photos taken with a digital camera at a suitable location will be made available on the web site and used as an indicator of current visibility conditions. 
  4. All current and historic ambient air monitoring data will be available through links on the web site for use by the EMPACT partner organizations and the general public 
  5. Interpretive pages will be posted and linked to the AQI report and camera pages to explain how to interpret the current conditions. This will include example pictures of good, moderate and poor conditions to use as a reference. 

Data acquisition software and data loggers will be acquired to poll the continuous air quality and visibility monitoring sites on an hourly basis, and transfer this data into a format for dissemination on the web page. Additional software will be required to develop the interactive portions of the web page, such as digital camera photography at programmed intervals that can be viewed sequentially. Other features will include standard visual range reporting, (based on nephelometer values) and on-line meteorological, gaseous and particulate pollutant data. The University of Arizona real-time base maps will be displayed, and options will be available or someone to query the datasets for a customized report. PDEQ web page links to other local media web sites will be established for more comprehensive AQI reporting. 

Objective (3) Provide coordinated outreach and training programs for teachers, media professionals and other stakeholders, with special emphasis on the areas with high asthma admissions. 

Outreach and training are necessary links in the communication of time-relevant environmental information. It is imperative that materials be developed that are easily understood and readily accessible. Community education will be achieved through enhanced collaboration with existing informational, outreach, and training programs of the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ), the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), The University of Arizona Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC), and the American Lung Association of Arizona. We will use media advertisements (television, radio, newspaper) as well as community, school and media training,, using adaptations of existing curricula. Special emphasis will be given to providing training in the under-served communities identified as having increased rates of hospital admissions for asthma. 

Training will focus on increasing, awareness of the real-time air quality information, helping the community learn how to access the web site or telephone call-in line, and in helping sensitive populations such as asthmatics to learn how knowledge of the air quality measurements may assist them in managing their health problems. 

Whenever possible, training programs and materials will be made available in both English and Spanish. Since the participants have existing programs in the community, this outreach will be sustainable without additional financial support from EMPACT after the initial development period. The curriculum / training materials will be fully transferable to other locations. 

The PDEQ Clean Air Program is a well-established, award-winning program that provides training for Tucson area schools. The staff will create, assemble, customize and distribute curricula demonstrating the use of these newly created and now publicly accessible technologies. These curricula will stimulate interest among primary and secondary students and teachers regarding air pollutant levels and the associated health effects. 

PDEQ will coordinate with The University of Arizona staff and local teachers to develop at least two sets each of student and teacher activities for primary (4th/5th (grade) and secondary grade levels (8th/9th grade). One set of activities will focus on the technical aspects of data retrieval and analysis using the newly accessible “linked” data sources. Activities may include teaching the relationship between mobile source emission density, time relevant climatic and meteorological conditions and air quality. The other set of activities will focus on researching the health effects of air pollution and prevention of air quality deterioration. 

The classroom activities will include in-depth instructions to access air quality and health-related data and provide opportunities to study the health risk of ambient airborne exposures in Tucson. The activities will be designed to meet state and local teaching requirements so they can be easily incorporated into classroom studies. Draft activities will be reviewed by teachers in the respective grade levels and piloted in classrooms. Suggestions for improvements will be included in the final product. Evaluations will be developed for the curricula and the activities will be available in both English and Spanish. 

The initial pilot program will be conducted in areas where, according! to previously conducted health-based studies, children have higher incidence of hospital admissions for respiratory illness. Elementary, Middle and High Schools in the targeted areas will be notified of the availability of the free curricula. Contacts will be made with teachers that have utilized PDEQ educational resources in the past to solicit participation. In addition, PDEQ staff will request time at a regularly scheduled staff meeting at all schools to inform teachers of the capabilities of the newly developed technologies. 

PDEQ staff will be available upon request for classroom presentations and assistance with implementing curriculum activities. Classroom visitations will demonstrate how real-time tracking of air pollution data can be linked to other spatially oriented elements (population demographics, incidences of disease, hospital admissions, meteorology. land use patterns. etc.). Student sessions could include “bookmarking” the PDEQ on-line air quality data center on the web page and taking a virtual data tour from the PDEQ web page to The University of Arizona health page and other relevant sites. These innovative technology links could be visited for daily readings to track specific trends. 

Pima Association of Governments (PAG) staff will assist in the educational outreach effort targeted at the general public, media professionals, and other stakeholders. Initially this will include the production and augmentation of existing materials on air quality in the Tucson area for the general public. These educational materials will be developed in collaboration with PDEQ staff to tie in with their curricula development. The materials will contain details on pollutants, sources, health and environmental effects, long and short-term trends, and references for more information. Existing educational materials will be updated to highlight the relationships between air quality and human health. The availability of these materials will be promoted through PAG’s web site, newsletters, meetings, and training workshops. 

The outreach effort will begin with the distribution of these materials to the public, media and other stakeholders. Bi-annual workshops will be conducted to educate relevant parties on the available resource tools, emphasizing those developed through the EMPACT grant. These workshops will be held in the Spring and Fall, to allow for additional emphasis on seasonal pollutants (i.e. ozone and carbon monoxide). The workshops will focus on ways to utilize the new internet links and other ways to access air quality information. Real-time measurements and mapping of air pollutants over time and space will be highlighted. Outreach will be directed at the media professionals (such as environmental reporters, meteorologists, and news anchors), educators from The University of Arizona and local colleges, staff from the Travel Reduction Program (TRP) and RideShare, and other stakeholders involved in outreach activities. It will focus on pollution prevention and alternate modes. 

The American Lung Association of Arizona (ALA) has an existing ozone alert program. The EMPACT grant will provide the infrastructure necessary to allow real-time access to ozone information, which is presently not available. This will enable the ALA to provide the Tucson community with clear instructions for recommended actions based on ozone concentrations. In addition, the Asthma Care Alliance of Southern Arizona (ACASA) program has an existing training, programs for children with asthma. This training program takes place in the community (using local hospitals) and in the schools. Since this training is focused on children with asthma, it provides an excellent means of educating, one of the populations most susceptible to air pollution. The availability of real-time air quality data, how to access it and how to interpret the information will be incorporated into the ACASA training program. 

The Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) presently trains Tucson K12 teachers on how to teach environmental toxicology. The availability of the real-time air quality data can be included in these training sessions, along with instructions on how to access the PDEQ web site. This web site will be linked with the SWEHSC web site, which contains information on the respiratory system. SWEHSC will work to collect and adapt back-round information on the public health effects of specific concentrations of airborne contaminants, to be placed on the web site. This will allow the public to understand the potential significance of the air pollution levels at any point in time (historical and real-time). 

The University of Arizona Prevention Center and SWEHSC have developed a relationship with our local public television station KUAT to help educate the public on environmental toxicology issues. The EMPACT program can be publicized through this process, again educating the public. The graphics and maps will provide high visual impact television footage. 

Objective (4) Assemble, customize and distribute curricula addressing the potential health risk of ambient air-borne exposures in English and Spanish. 

In order to provide health information context to the data, web-based descriptions of known health effects of airborne contaminants will be developed by personnel from The University of Arizona Environmental and Occupational Health unit and SWEHSC in association with the American Lung Association. This information could be accessed and incorporated in curriculum adapted for the local community, K-12 school teachers, and the media. Using established outreach programs developed by the Arizona Lung Association and SWEHSC, the existence of our real-time air quality information program will be communicated to the public and particularly to the underserved communities with high asthma admission rates and their schools. The information will be included in the existing, SWEHSC web site. 

Health effects data will include a review of prior medical studies, and will describe the effects of specific concentrations of contaminants on particular groups. This outreach will be coordinated with the real-time air monitoring, data so that the public could anticipate what the adverse effects of air pollution would be at any particular time. Descriptive language on the web site will be written at the 5th grade level in English and Spanish. 

Prospective evaluation of health effects of ambient airborne contaminants in Tucson will be provided through linkage with the Asthma Care Alliance of Southern Arizona (ACASA), which is a subcommittee of the American Lung Association of Arizona. ACASA collects emergency room visit and hospital discharge data for pediatric asthma cases. This group will provide web site information on asthma including symptoms that would suggest the possibility of asthma. 

Objective (5) Conduct air quality studies in economically disadvantaged areas that are known to have increased rates of pediatric asthma and that have been traditionally underserved. 

Additional air monitoring will be conducted in an area with high pediatric asthma hospital discharges. The only monitoring currently conducted in the high asthma zip code areas is a PMIO particulate monitoring site. The site for a mobile ozone monitor will be selected by PDEQ. Technical operations personnel from PDEQ will install and maintain the monitor. All data collected will be subject to PDEQ quality assurance and quality control protocol, and will be available through the web site and the phone-in information line. 

Objective (6) Enhance collection of air quality measurements by integrating regulatory compliance monitoring with complementary technologies such as visibility indexing. 

Air quality data will be continuously collected and reported from the established Pima County Department of Environmental Quality monitoring sites. This data will include measurements of EPA criteria pollutants such as ozone (03), particulates (PM10 and PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), and oxides of nitrogen (NO). In addition, photometric visibility information and measurements from a transmissometer and an integrating nephelometer will be collected. The data will continuously undergo rigorous quality assurance and quality control measures prior to being compiled and posted on the web site. Explanations on how the visibility information relates to pollutant concentrations will be posted on the web site. 

Expected Results and Benefits: 
EMPACT support will provide the means necessary to improve access to ambient air quality data in Tucson, including traditionally underserved areas of low socioeconomic status with high pediatric asthma hospital discharge rates. The data collected will allow citizens to understand the potential adverse health effects of airborne pollutants on a real-time basis. This will allow them to make appropriate decisions about their activities for that day. For example, an asthmatic child may need to monitor the ozone levels in order to make decisions about participation in outside activities. An industrial manager may voluntarily cut back production on days when Tucson is at risk of violating an air quality standard. A governmental leader may use the information on poor air quality days to advise employees to car pool or telecommute. People with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves may be asked not to burn on days with high particulate or carbon monoxide levels. 

The installation of dial-up service for AQI reporting will ensure that any citizen in Tucson will have access to real-time air quality data. Public access to environmental monitoring data will also be available through the development and enhancement of the PDEQ web site, including links to key paces for additional environmental and health data. Providing the media and other stakeholders with access to the web site and training in the use of map products will ensure further dissemination of the data in an understandable format. Once in place this resource will be sustained by PDEQ with future outreach efforts utilizing this valuable resource and integrating new resources as they become available. 

Two-dimensional real-time maps of air quality in Tucson will be generated and made available to the public through web site access. These easily understood maps will be used by the media to provide the public with a visualization of air quality, meteorology, and health-related data. Time sequences of the mapped data will also enable animation on the web site. These maps will be incorporated into project outreach materials. 

Focused public education will be carried out through the media, as well as community and school education programs. By targeting and training the media professionals and other stakeholders on air quality and related health issues, further education of the public will be achieved. The workshops will serve to provide the core outreach professionals involved in the media, education, local governments and nongovernmental agencies, with accurate and easily understood information to be used in their respective outreach efforts. Participants will be trained to access and utilize the air quality information on the web site, and will gain a valuable understanding of the context of the monitoring data through the maps. This will enable use of this data in furthering the goals of this project by additional publicity of air quality information. The educational products and documentation of the outreach efforts will be designed to be ongoing, sustainable and transferable to other communities. 

By providing activities to local schools, improvement will occur in basic knowledge and awareness of air quality and health issues among students and educators. Families and friends may receive the benefit of the improved awareness of air quality issues through discussions with students and teachers. In addition, the project will stimulate interest and awareness in other educators, which will result in increased opportunities for future use of the curriculum and classroom presentations. Through improved knowledge and awareness, it is hoped that actions to prevent air quality deterioration may be more prevalent among those exposed to the information presented through the Tucson EMPACT project. In addition, linkage with the SWEHSC outreach program, ALA, ACASA, and other outreach centers will spread knowledge of the program and help teach communities about the air quality in their neighborhoods.