How States Can Utilize EPA Grant to Improve Indoor Air Quality Nationwide in 2023
Last month, the EPA announced $53M for air pollution monitoring.
- By Dr. Serene Almomen
- Dec 02, 2022
Following the Biden-Harris Administration’s Air Quality Summit last month, the EPA awarded $53,400,000 in grants aimed to help the air quality crisis in the U.S. The grant will arm state and local governments, nonprofits and housing authorities with the funding needed to help improve indoor air quality conditions nationwide. This is the most significant investment made to directly improve indoor air quality in the U.S. and was long overdue for the safety of the American people.
A 2022 report titled “State of the Air'' by the American Lung Association estimates over 137 million people in the U.S. are living in areas with unhealthy levels of particulate matter (PM) and breathing in harmful air. Additionally, nine million more Americans were impacted by daily spikes in deadly particle pollution as opposed to last year. Particulate matter or pollution contains small particulates that can be inhaled and are hazardous to short-term and long-term health effects. Locations like California and Arizona had the most year-round particle pollution citing factors like wildfires and extreme heat that contributed to the massive spikes in air quality levels.
After the pandemic, the way people think about breathing is different. Many consider whether an indoor space is safe before entering. Indoor air quality can no longer be a privilege but must be recognized as a necessity. Immediate risks can range from dizziness and irritation of the eyes, nose or throat. Exposure to long-term poor air quality conditions has shown links to more serious health problems, like respiratory diseases, asthma, heart disease, cognitive deficits and cancer. Moreover, the inequality of clean air has long affected minorities, children and low-income communities at higher rates.
The socioeconomic disparities in air quality within the U.S. and globally have shown a higher level of pollutants within underserved communities, including people of color, people experiencing poverty and children/younger adults. The inequality of the impact of air pollution has left disadvantaged communities with increased exposure to harmful pollutants and an increased risk of premature death. The EPA’s grant should empower states and non-profits to implement technologies that can improve indoor air quality in our underserved communities - something that wasn’t an option prior to the pandemic and the world’s increased awareness.
In order to have safe indoor environments, we need to see what we breathe in real-time.
For decades, pollution has been a rising issue, but following the impact of the pandemic, there is now global attention on the immediate need for better visibility into indoor air quality conditions. IAQ devices are becoming a respected tool to measure and monitor a number of environmental conditions present in an indoor space in real-time. These IAQ monitoring systems are uniquely designed to assess the safety of air quality levels. They need to become an integral part of the solution. The advancement of IAQ technology allows building operators or school administrators to receive alerts in real-time when airborne pollutants represent a threat. This enables them to act immediately and ensures people aren’t exposed for long to dangerous PM.
“[Forty-one] percent of school districts need to update or replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in at least half of their schools, representing about 36,000 schools nationwide that need HVAC updates.” There are a number of monitoring and ventilation systems that can address these needs.
The popularity of these systems for real-time monitoring has grown in public schools by eliminating the fear of Covid-19 exposure and allowing students to be in a classroom that is constantly being confirmed as a safe space. In addition, it detects the presence of a wide range of other pollutants, including Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Formaldehyde and more.
The growing IAQ industry is expanding past the education space into medical, offices, commercial real estate and entertainment venues. Indoor air quality solutions are expected to grow by 14.61 billion over the next four years. During the White House Air Quality Summit last month, President Biden encouraged businesses to do the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge and pledge their commitment to improving indoor air quality. This includes measuring, testing, managing and monitoring indoor air quality in both residential and commercial buildings.
While we can’t immediately change the world’s pollution levels, giving people access to detection tools allows them to be aware of potential health hazards and leave an unsafe space is a start. The hospitals we visit, the schools our children attend and the offices we work in put us all at risk of dangerous inhalants. To immediately address the poor air quality risks and how it affects our health, IAQ monitoring enables organizations to bolster indoor protections for people, operate more efficiently and improve productivity, all while safeguarding the environment. Getting immediate updates on unhealthy conditions and information regarding air quality can have significant health benefits in reducing strokes, lung disease and asthma.
The Biden-Harris Administration and EPA’s expansive push for cleaner air initiatives to mitigate the spread of harmful pollutants and minimize the effects of global warming should be prioritized by states. Combatting one of the most significant environmental risks to our health starts with our indoor air standards. The unavoidable change in our climate and the lack of resources for monitoring pollution levels have grave implications for everybody, but particularly our underserved populations, similar to what we saw during the pandemic. The EPA investing in the IAQ industry can help businesses and schools immediately improve the health of the American people if utilized properly. COVID-19 brought the issue of air quality to the forefront, but the federal response reiterates how important it is for everyone to have access to clean air.
Dr. Serene Almomen is the co-founder and CEO of the high-growth technology company Attune (https://www.attuneiot.com/how-it-works) (formerly known as Senseware), which was founded to help underperforming buildings in desperate need of real-time data to diagnose the health of a space. Attune’s system is the only real-time customizable solution on the market and at the outbreak of the pandemic, we transformed our platform to address schools in need of a similar solution. Our platform is installed in over 700 schools nationwide to address HVAC infrastructure and air quality issues. President Biden referenced one of the school districts utilizing our technology in the White House Air Quality Summit last month (Denver Public Schools). Her company has been named one of Forbes's top 50 women-led startups in the technology industry.