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Colorado air quality monitoring expands with EPA support

Coloradans can check on their phone or computer to see when air pollution is high
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 19:01:03-05

NORTHGLENN, Colo. — A lot of people move to Colorado because they think the state has great air quality. But they soon learn about air quality alerts. That was the message KC Becker, who works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an administrator for the region including Colorado, had on Wednesday.

For decades, Colorado has tried to reduce its high levels of air pollution, including severe ozone and the infamous “brown cloud” hanging over Denver.

Now, the EPA is partnering with several counties on the Front Range to expand air quality monitoring in the hopes more information can help guide Coloradans on when it's safe to spend time outside, and inform lawmakers on how to improve the air we breathe.

“It's invisible, oftentimes, but that doesn't mean it's not there,” Becker said.

New air quality monitors are “just one way that the EPA, with the state and with local governments, are really trying to keep track of that, and do the best we can to address it,” she said.

The EPA recently selected Adams and Jefferson counties to receive federal grants totaling more than $625,000 through the Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan.

With those funds, the counties will install more air quality monitors and share the information gathered with the public through a website and phone app called Love My Air. This will expand on Denver’s existing air quality database.

That information can help Coloradans “to make decisions about whether they exercise outside. Does your grandma go for a walk today? Do you take your kids to the playground?” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, a native Coloradan who advocates for policies to protect health and the environment as director of GreenLatinos Colorado.

Air quality monitors can detect “the very smallest particles that you breathe in, get in your blood, go to your brain and cause all sorts of problems,” Tafoya said.

That’s especially important for those with health conditions such as asthma, as well as during wildfires when there is smoke in the air or on hot summer days when the sun more efficiently turns emissions into harmful ozone.

Now, before you head outside, you can find out if the air quality is good or bad. Tafoya said that similarly to how we check the temperature to know whether it will be hot or cold, we can see what “particulates” are in the air and know if it is a high ozone day.

The information gathered by these additional monitors will also help lawmakers.

"For years, they've told us we didn't have the data. Well, let's get the data. And let's start making policy decisions that protect people,” Tafoya said.

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