The goal of the Bicycle Air Monitoring program is to generate a more comprehensive air quality map of the City of Hamilton with regards to Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5). In addition, it will allow us to locate and then further analyze problem areas.
What is Particulate Matter (PM)?
Particulate matter is the general term used to describe a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, and includes aerosols, dust, ash, smoke, fumes, and pollen. Particulate matter is commonly characterized according to size: PM10, which is particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (0.01 millimetres) across, and PM2.5, which is smaller than 2.5 microns (0.0025 mm) across.
Why is PM2.5 so important?
Fine particulate matter of this size or smaller can more easily penetrate the resipiratory system. This can lead to breathing difficulties, particularly for high-risk individuals such as people with asthma, cardiovascular or lung disease, children, and elderly. In addition, PM2.5 is a carcinogen, and an established cause of lung cancer. There is no known level of exposure to PM2.5. An estimated 560 cancer cases in Ontario are attributed to PM2.5 exposure in the outdoor air.
How does PM2.5 end up in the air?
PM2.5 is commonly emitted through fuel combustion and the burning of organic matter, but can also form through airborne chemical reactions. The Air Quality in Ontario 2014 report identified motor vehicle traffic, industrial sources, and residential fireplaces and stoves as the key contributers to residential PM2.5 air pollution. Other sources include smelters, power plants, forest fires, and agricultural burning.
Who monitors PM2.5?
Within Ontario, there are 40 monitoring stations run by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Most stations collect PM2.5, ozone, nitrogen dioxide concentrations and provide live air quality reports and daily forecasts. Three stations are located in Hamilton at Beasley Park, Sackville Hill Memorial Park, and near the Highway 403 entrance off of Main St. W. in Westdale.
How does Hamilton stack up?
Not well. Although PM2.5 levels in Ontario have been declining since 2005, Hamilton's Downtown (Beasley Park) station recorded the highest average annual concentration in the province in 2014 at 10.8 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre). This is higher than the reference level of 10 μg/m3 established by Canadian the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards and the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines.
If the PM2.5 data is already collected at three stations within Hamilton, why does EH run the BAM (Bicycle Air Monitoring) program?
Cancer Centre Ontario's 2016 report confirms what EH (Environment Hamilton) has believed for a long time: "The current air quality monitoring system does not provide sufficient data to reflect variations in concentration within an urban area". More monitoring is necessary to determine neighbourhoods and other areas where people may be exposed to higher PM2.5 concentrations. Areas potentially at a higher risk include those nearby major highways and throughfares as well as near the industrial core at the north end of the city.
The BAM program allows Hamilton's citizen scientists to help create a more comprehensive air quality map of the city by recording and matching PM2.5 and PM10 data from particle sensor to GPS (Global Positioning System, aka. your location) as they ride through the city. Check out our current map.
How can you get involved?
We rely on our awesome volunteers borrowing and using our easy-to-use kits to continue improving the scope and accuracy of our map. Whether you are cycling on your daily commute, a recreational trail, or just looking to explore the city, you can help us out!
If you are interested in borrowing a kit for a week this summer (June-August 2017), send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! Kits are easy-to-use, and we will provide training upon pick-up.
For more information on the project, go here: http://environmenthamilton.org/view/page/BAM
Stay tuned for future updates and projects, including a DIY air monitoring kit that will available later this summer!
Cancer Care Ontario's 2016 Report: https://www.cancercare.on.ca/common/pages/UserFile.aspx?fileId=363932
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change's Air Quality Site: http://airqualityontario.com/
US EPA: https://www.epa.gov/
After another month of summer cycling around Hamilton, Mitch & I have noticed reoccurring problem areas where particulate matter levels are high. When cycling by these areas, our particulate matter monitors reached peak levels that were astoundingly high. Below are some of those problem areas we found, each with its own specific cause.
1. Wentworth Metal Recycling (located by Wentworth & Burlington)
Large amounts of dirt-drag out from the entrance of Wentworth Metal Recycling. This is most likely due to the high number of large trucks going in and out of the site. Any cars driving by this area can easily pick up this and drive dirt right into the air! It IS Wentworth Metal’s responsibility to keep this area clean which helps minimize the amount of particulate matter present in the area.
2. West Harbour GO Station (located right around James St. North & Strachan St W)
Construction workers at the new West Harbour GO Station cutting concrete without using water! This results in large clouds of dust that drift off to nearby neighbourhoods.
3. Scott Park demolition (Cannon & Melrose)
The Scott Park demolition site is located right across Cannon Street from the Tim Hortons field. Construction vehicles are the main culprit here, putting debris and dust into the air where they drift off into the surrounding residential area.
Remember, if you see any air emissions from sources that wouldn’t normally be there, please snap a photo and take a few minutes to call the provincial Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change’s Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 (toll-free, province-wide, 24/7). For more information on reporting problem air emissions, you may contact us for help or see http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/report-spill for more details.
Happy cycling and breathe clean!
Mitch (right) and I giving a display of how the air monitors work during 100In1Day.
(Photo taken by Shelly Cameron, from snapd Hamilton) https://hamilton.snapd.com/event/853279#/
The 2015 bicycle air monitoring season has begun and what better timing than with Bike Month starting too.
Air quality has always been a major health concern for many, especially those living in industrial cities, such as Hamilton. By using a portable air particulate monitor and a compact GPS unit, anyone can survey the air quality anywhere in the city at any time.
As this year’s BAM intern, it was my job to get accustomed with using these nifty air monitors and GPS units while getting the project up and running again.
After learning to use the equipment, Mitch (the INHALE intern) and I decided to go for our first monitoring ride this season. Instead of choosing a conventional bike route, we opted for a ride through the industrial core of Hamilton. What we noticed throughout our ride was that we would consistently get readings of high particulate matter (PM) at locations with dirt drag-out, construction/road work, and when large trucks drove past us.
I was really surprised at how straightforward the gear was to use and am looking ahead for more monitoring rides in the coming weeks as the weather continues to get better!
Collecting air quality data is the first step in taking action to address areas in Hamilton that have poor air quality. The next step is to explore ways to see the sources of air particulate reduced or eliminated and this will be an important part of what we focus on this summer!
Interested in the BAM program? We’re always looking for more volunteers! Learn more about the project and sign up here at: http://www.environmenthamilton.org/view/page/BAM
Stay tuned for an online map showing data accumulated over the past year from this project!
An 18 wheeler preparing to leave a site.
A dust cloud left behind from the 18 wheeler truck driving away. Notice the dirt drag-out from the site as well.
High particulate matter readings from sewer work going on at the intersection of James St & Burlington St.