Environmental Justice Risks from Hyper-Local Monitoring are Exaggerated

By Roger Caiazza

According to Bloomberg Law, Biden’s Hefty Clean Air To-Do List Follows Early Big Promises means that air quality standards have to be revised and must incorporate social justice and climate concerns.  Based on what I have seen this push will rely less on science and more on emotion.

The Bloomberg article states:

“Revising clean air rules is a cornerstone of climate and justice policies, two areas that the Biden administration has set as priorities.  Clean air experts in areas that carry a disproportionate burden of dirty air say that runaway air pollution remains a chronic problem, reflecting neglect of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, exacerbated by air monitor disparities.”

“Portable air quality monitors used in the South Bronx and Brooklyn caught particulate matter quantities 20 times higher in some areas than levels reported by state-run monitors, according to new data from a neighborhood-level air monitoring study by the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, or NYC-EJA.  The findings highlight insufficient air monitoring for targeted environmental justice communities, and show why one generalized air policy may not be enough to mitigate pollution for hard-hit areas, said Jalisa Gilmore, research analyst for NYC-EJA.  “That’s why we have a little bit more emphasis on hyper local monitoring, and making sure that we actually get the interventions that are most appropriate for the community,” she said.”

The New York City hyper local monitoring program is described in the Community Air Mapping Project for Environmental Justice (CAMP-EJ) findings and recommendations report.  In brief:

“Because New York City has only 13 high-performance ambient air monitoring sites, air pollution

exposures are poorly characterized at the neighborhood level. To address this data gap, CAMP-EJ utilized dozens of low-cost, portable air quality monitors to measure hyperlocal air quality and characterize air pollution exposures at more refined spatial and temporal scales than is possible using existing City and State data. The results of our air monitoring campaign shed light on the disproportionate public health burdens imposed on environmental justice communities from industrial pollution, trucking, and transportation infrastructure.”

The analysis found that local facilities and expressways are big polluters, traffic congestion fouls the air twice every day, and that hyperlocal measurements show inhalable particulate matter are twenty times higher than state-run monitors.  I was not surprised by the first two findings but the claim that hyperlocal measurements were much higher than state-run monitors surprised me.

I have experience running air quality monitoring networks with particulate matter monitors.  I found that measuring particulates was always difficult to do correctly and more so with smaller aerodynamic particles like the inhalable or 2.5 micron particles.  In the project, “CAMP-EJ participants used the AirBeam2, a low-cost, palm-sized air quality instrument that measures PM2.5, and AirCasting, an open-source environmental data visualization platform that consists of an Android app and online mapping


The going price for an AirBeam 2 is around $250 and the state-run monitors systems use instruments that go for $25,000.  The state-run system has a detailed quality assurance plan and includes quality control tests which I doubt were included in the community monitoring program so my first thought is just how accurate are these personal monitors?  According to the report: “The AirBeam2’s PM2.5 measurements are “quite accurate” according to a performance evaluation conducted by South Coast Air Quality Management District, which compared the performance of the AirBeam2 to reference monitors.” 

However, the South Coast Air Quality Management District evaluation report I found told a different story.  Three sensors were tested against a reference FEM FRIMM PM 2.5 monitoring instrument similar to the one used in the New York State network.  According to the concluding discussion:

“Accuracy: Overall, the three AirBeam sensors showed very low accuracy compared to FEM GRIMM at 20 °C and 40% RH, when varying PM2.5 mass concentration from 10 to 50 μg/m3. The AirBeam sensors significantly overestimated the FEM GRIMM readings. According to the method of calculating accuracy, the % accuracy for the sensors were all negative. When PM2.5mass conc. was over 50 μg/m3, Airbeam sensors reached plateau of 315 μg/m3.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the CAMP-EJ main conclusions, local facilities and expressways are big polluters and traffic congestion fouls the air twice every day, are correct.  However, the monitors used over-estimated inhalable particulate concentrations considerably, particularly at the higher rates they claimed are hurting local communities.  As a result, the numbers that they claim prove the need to act are incorrect.


Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.

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Joseph Zorzin
February 23, 2021 6:12 am

“air quality standards have to be revised and must incorporate social justice and climate concerns”
Sure, no problem, we’ll just clean the air and water and make everyone equal and cool the climate, while maintaining America’s military and economic power, while lowering taxes, and improving education. The mantra for a dimwitted politician who’ll try to fool all of the people all of the time.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 23, 2021 8:42 am

…and decreasing taxes

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 23, 2021 8:59 pm

Climate Justice was removed from even the Paris agreement at COP23 so this is called p1ss1ng in the wind.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 24, 2021 4:14 am

guess the backyarders small industries will get closed down now?

Ron Long
February 23, 2021 6:20 am

So Roger is doubtful that a group called “New York City-Environmental Justice Alliance”, utilizing low-quality air pollution monitors is actually quantifying the problem of more localized pollution? Who will the masses believe? Not the official numbers, instead the NYC-EJA numbers, because it’s the age we live in. Look at how many persons don’t believe the Covid-19 vaccines actually work, or don’t induce severe symptoms and side effects. The media and associated politicians created actual hatred toward anything “official” in their reckless attempt to get to Trump. Even now the Covid curve for the USA started down (for new cases) January 8, and (for deaths per day) down on January 12. Warp Speed? Forget about it.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Ron Long
February 23, 2021 8:55 am

Won’t stop the Biden-Harris Libtards from taking credit for the natural decline in cases and deaths that occur iwith respiratory viruses n the Spring-time. It has to do with people turning off the heat, opening up houses and offices to outside air circulation, natural increases in humidity, and more sunshine for more Vitamin D.
Obviously without the Communist-Democrats running DC,who would have thought to have done all that?

Reply to  Ron Long
February 24, 2021 4:16 am

covids following the same rise then drop as it did pre vax ffs!
the vax has stuff all to do with the drop
hell it doesnt even ensure you dont get covid, just maybe a lesser illness at best, and iffy about halting transmission as well
seeing as thats the case for the majority of non vaxed anyway
why would you bother?

Reply to  Ron Long
February 24, 2021 8:44 am

The govenment and media have done it to themselves. No matter the subject, if the source is a government agency as reported by main stream media the first approximation of “That’s a deliberate lie.” is not far off the mark.

February 23, 2021 7:22 am

Handheld monitors operated by activists can easily be misused to provide misleading data.

Holding the sensors closer to tailpipes inflates numbers.

This is not an accusation. It is an observation of something possible that a person with a good motive might choose to do.

Reply to  vboring
February 23, 2021 7:43 am

They’re not sensing, but rather reporting truth to facts.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  vboring
February 23, 2021 8:58 am

Carrying a hand-held air monitor, even if it suffers calibration and accuracy issues, at street level in a big city is certainly going to give much higher readings of vehicle emissions related particulates than roof-top or more appropriately sited monitors.
Which one is more meaningful is debatable.

Ron Long
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 23, 2021 9:25 am

Joel, I would also imagine they will utilize the technique of linear-no threshold to predict the death and destruction from their localized pollution numbers.

George Daddis
Reply to  Ron Long
February 24, 2021 2:39 pm

Yes, that is the basis of the Harvard study mentioned.
“Where are the bodies?”

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 23, 2021 1:03 pm

To say nothing of the foul breath and flatulence from the carrier.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 23, 2021 1:41 pm

It is not “vehicle emissions”. Is ambient PM. There is no way to differentiate how much came from the vehicles and how much from the ground (known as “fugitive dust” in the trade).

Apart from not knowing what they measured, they also don’t know how to interpret the numbers nor correct the measurement for confounding factors like size and humidity. Most of the PM around roads is from the ground.

Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 24, 2021 4:52 am

Big difference between total PM (from road dust, etc) and respirable PM fractions (PM10 and PM2.5 from vehicle or power plant exhaust). These monitors were specifically looking st PM2.5.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Kemaris
February 25, 2021 11:21 am

Young, Smith and Lopiano Air quality and acute deaths in California, 2000-2012 the most comprehensive study to date, shows no association between PM 2.5 and acute deaths.

They say, “The air quality variables [ozone and PM 2.5] are essentially without predictive power.

February 23, 2021 7:23 am

It’s a means to an end: the low-cost devices support the predetermined conclusion, which is that there’s climate injustice.

Don’t dare question it.

February 23, 2021 7:30 am

Maybe the neighborhood monitors should hold off smoking their bowls until they get home.

February 23, 2021 7:41 am

Social (i.e. selective, opportunistic, politically congruent)… environmental justice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

Reply to  n.n
February 23, 2021 8:32 am

Could you repeat your two comments in English?

Reply to  paranoid goy
February 23, 2021 8:45 am

I had no trouble understanding it.

February 23, 2021 7:44 am

Air quality monitoring is a big part of Big Green, it supports many academics who research the best places to put the monitors, not of course to get the most accurate data, but to get the highest readings. Here for example is one recent “study” of NO2 monitoring:


February 23, 2021 7:44 am

The only proper climate justice is applying the scientific method which will exonerate CO2 emissions. Any other definition is classic Orwellian double speak.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
February 23, 2021 8:47 am

Social justice is the very definition of Orwellian double speak.

February 23, 2021 7:50 am

Pollution measurements often are taken near main streets with much circulation, not so in residential areas, where the main pollution on weekends and in the evenings is due to wood heating and chimneys, that is not measured. Pollution blown to measured areas by some wind is than postulated to be from circulation.
The question not answerd is, why the heck the truck convois circulate on weekends and late evenings around and polluate the streets, and noone can see the convois 😀

Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 23, 2021 8:35 am

You bin schmokin’ what n.n. bin ssschmokin’? Maybe I haved a stroek an eye lossed mai langwich skealz?
Somebuddy yelp mi!

Reply to  paranoid goy
February 23, 2021 8:48 am

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  paranoid goy
February 23, 2021 9:41 am

Dear Paranoid Goy
Your appointment to the editing panel of the IPCC has been successful and your written communication skills are just what we are looking for. Congratulations !

Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 23, 2021 8:50 am

How many chimneys are found in most of New York City?
Beyond that, how many wood fires would you expect to find in a New York summer?

Reply to  MarkW
February 23, 2021 9:38 am

Imagine, there is a world beside USA, and I described how it’s done in Germany. The target is to blame cars and circulation even if not involved. Just because they can and they will. Question of justice ? Yes.

February 23, 2021 8:43 am

utilized dozens of low-cost, portable air quality monitors

In most cases, low cost also means low quality.
Also what evidence is presented to show that the sampling being done is valid?
How do we know that the social justice warriors didn’t put the sensor up the tail pipe of a diesel truck? After all, they already know what the correct answer is, all that’s left is to figure out a way to prove it.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  MarkW
February 23, 2021 9:28 am

Yes Mark, exactly.

Some while ago I got myself a handheld CO2 meter. Kinda expensive and mostly coz of its sensor. A block of metal, bout the size of a matchbox, complete with a Serial number,date of manufacture, type of sensor (blah blah something Infra Red) and a ‘Made In Sweden’ marker.
It seemed to work quite well, did actually say ~400ppm when you took it outside, left it for 30+ mins and then, noted the reading

I learned the hard/expensive way that you don’t leave them running 24/7 – the sensor dies.

So I got me another. This time a piece of Chinese carp that was a combined Temperature, humidity and CO2 sensor.
I could have bought 5 of them for the price of the Swedish one.

It Was A Perfect Random Number Generator.
I even sealed it in a large plastic bag and over the course of 2 hours watched its CO2 reading go from 200ppm to over 9000 and back again.
I took photos, could hardly believe what I was seeing.
How could anything be so crap?

Are these particle meters, Chinese made surely, going to be any better?

But then, the wicked cynical mind clicks – what if the crafty Chinese program into them a DieselGate.
That the sensor ‘knows’ what its being used for and ‘adjusts its reading’ correspondingly. A bit like the engine management computers in VW diesels did when they were being tested for emissions.
Would it take much doing?

If the initial machines produced scary high readings, wouldn’t it promote a rush for everyone to get one? How much $$$$$

As a much larger goal, would not Din Zhow Ping be interested in the promotion of US economic, political, social and mental derangements that the use of these machines might cause – derangements that already seem to be starting as reported in this story.

Would, perhaps, Hauwei be in any way involved?
Was Hauwei in any way involved with the vote-counting machines?

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Peta of Newark
February 23, 2021 1:49 pm

It is hard to measure CO2 for less than $1500. For example see https://www.infraredindustries.com/ for really good compact devices – can measure up to 6 gases on a board with full communication ability. There are very good logging devices like the OPUS 20 which is a miracle of modern engineering. Expandable too.

Once you get one, you will be shocked to see how high CO2 goes (and varies) during the day. This “global average” 410 ppm is not related to anything near people and their machines. I have accurately measured 1100 ppm in ambient air. The ocean emits a huge amount of CO2, which maybe explains why it is so hot near a beach. Ha! ha!

Joel O'Bryan
February 23, 2021 8:50 am

Environmental Justice, like Climate Justice, are just Orwellian NewSpeak terms that mean whatever the Communist Democrats wants them to mean, with malleable definitions to suit ever-shifting agenda priorities.

February 23, 2021 9:23 am

Environmental justice would be seeing all these clowns departing on the ‘B’ ark

Mr. Lee
February 23, 2021 9:50 am

“social justice” is like “Western science”. Just as, there is no such thing as “Western science”, ( there is only science and quackery). There is no such thing as “social justice” , there is only justice. Calling something ‘social justice” is simply gaslighting the public into thinking injustice is “justice”.

Ian W
February 23, 2021 10:24 am

Interestingly, face powder is almost all PM2.5 so powdering ones nose is a potentially fatal exercise. Is there a move to ban these fatal cosmetics?

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 23, 2021 1:37 pm

This is a continuous problem when trying to establish what the PM2.5 mass concentration is in the air.

For the benefit of readers who are new to the topic, to get something like the real mass of PM2.5 in a volume of air, one must catch the material on a filter. There are different kinds of filters and they collect different fractions of the same source. You should identify what you want to catch, and how well, then identify a filter medium. Weighing it is a major challenge. Particulate matter (PM) is hydroscopic (water absorbing) so the filter catch has to be set at a certain humidity in a chamber before weighing, usually for a day.

Optical instruments such as the GRIMM 11-R (three lasers, 0.22 micron minimum size identification) are better than single laser instruments like the Dusttrak from TSI (common as it is). Optical instruments cannot weigh the particles and I assure you, the mass estimated by optical instruments varies quite a bit from the “real” mass collected on a filter, and the difference varies with humidity.

The cheap instruments mentioned above ($250) have no capacity to dry the particles before measurement. Combustion particles, especially from wood combustion, are highly hydroscopic and swell rapid with an increase in humidity. At 70% RH they are almost 3 times large in diameter than at 20-30% RH. They identify particles by the reflection of laser light, assuming that a bigger reflection is from a bigger particle. If it really is bigger because of absorbing water, then it will be assessed to be heavier according to the algorithm. Well, it is heavier but water (fog) is not a criteria pollutant. The mass estimate from a number if “counts” by a simple optical device will be far higher than weighed on a dried, filter catch.

All of the discrepancy described may be attributable to humidity correction alone!

Further, road dust is usually much larger than PM2.5 (PM7 to PM30) and thus is not respirable (meaning: sticks deep in the lungs). “Respirable” means under PM4.0 but there is very little of anything from any source between PM2.0 and PM5.0 for a variety of reasons I won’t explain here. So the small hand held device, lacking an impact filter that removes particles larger than PM2.5, is going to see “everything” and report the total. Fine, but for the most part that is not health-endangering air contamination. The mass of the larger particles must be subtracted from the total to find the balance below 2.5 microns.

They used to measure PM10 only, because there was lots of it. Then they discovered that if your instrument counted PM10.2 as PM 10, the number went way up. And undercounting was produce by cutting off at PM9.8. Good grief. So the new standard was PM2.5 because basically there are no particles that size. The instrument could be a little “off” and it gave the same answers as others.

From the description of the measurements, it seems they are comparing an inaccurate local PM10 number with far more accurately determined PM2.5 at another location, and they have not indicated how either estimated mass is corrected for humidity. So how can they match? They are measuring different physical things. Of course they differ! Duh!

This is what you get when half-trained amateur enthusiasts decide to scare the people with vague and unjustifiable alarming “observations”.

Premature deaths influenced by PM2.5 in air are entirely based on estimates and have no basis in facts. It is models all the way down, to quote Willis. PM2.5 is a diameter, not a substance. A mass of diameters is not a particular substance. A “general substance” has not even a vague correlation to specific disease outcomes for identifiable population cohorts with identifiable medical histories, inoculation profiles, access to health facilities and known diets. So they make stuff up hoping it means something – just like this story about “environmental justice”. Justice will not arise from misrepresenting multiple ignorances.

old engineer
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 23, 2021 6:10 pm


Thanks for a great comment. As I recall ( it’s been 20 years) Particulate matter is just plain hard to measure. Don’t most stationary monitors have some sort of way to remove the particles that are greater than 2.5 microns before the filter? I doubt the hand held one have such capability.

As I recall, ambient particulate standards are based on eight hour averages, not instantaneous readings.

If you are worried about exposure, try taking one inside a home for a day.

Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 24, 2021 6:30 am

Great comment. I agree with everything you said.

February 23, 2021 1:55 pm

Texas begins hearing re: failure.


This could be a problem for Longroad Energy Partners if the right questions are asked re: their assets (and client assets) in Texas…(former Enron/UPC/ First Wind/Sun Edison shysters).


Smart Rock
February 23, 2021 3:15 pm

insufficient air monitoring for targeted environmental justice communities

I wonder what on earth an “environmental justice community” is?

Plain language is apparently as unattainable for these activists as clear thinking or a grasp of basic epistomology.

By basic epistomology, I mean the ability to distinguish between what they want to be true and what has been demonstrated to be true by experiment and observation. It’s lacking in the climate science community too. In fact it’s lacking everywhere in these contentious days.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Smart Rock
February 23, 2021 5:38 pm

I wonder what on earth an “environmental justice community” is?

Just a guess. Someplace they slapped a label, any label, on where they promise to dump money into to justify their call for more political power.

February 23, 2021 3:23 pm

Hyperlocal monitors also show unbearable noise from wind turbines. Will they fix that too?

Eric Vieira
February 24, 2021 1:33 am

He forgot to mention that a non negligible quantity of ultra-fine fibers get into our lungs…
from the face masks people are forced to wear…

February 24, 2021 4:13 am

is this also the study that made news this week re NY tube system being harmfully toxic air levels ?

Reply to  ozspeaksup
February 24, 2021 6:31 am

No but I would not be surprised if they used the same monitors

George Daddis
February 24, 2021 1:45 pm

Their concern rests on the premise that 2.5 is somehow harmful. It is not.
(“Where are the bodies?” is the appropriate question. This conclusion rests on the falsified “no lower threshold” theory that linearly extrapolates health risks down to minute amounts.)

 industrial pollution, trucking, and transportation infrastructure.
Fancy words, but what has this to do with racial impact of the given in any urban area?

If the air is poor in a urban area that impacts the entire population not just PoC.
When SMOG was greatly reduced in LA no one focused on the racial makeup of the area.

What are the SOLUTIONS to reducing industrial pollution etc that are race specific?

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