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Air Quality

My New Favorite Gadget: A Purple Air Air Quality Monitor

As you know, Los Angeles has the worst air in the nation. It’s gotten a lot better, but until all diesel vehicles are in the scrapyard, among other things, we’re still at risk.

As you know, Los Angeles has the worst air in the nation. It’s gotten a lot better, but until all diesel vehicles are in the scrapyard, among other things, we’re still at risk. A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from the Coalition for Clean Air asking for Torrance, CA, residents to host air quality monitors. I don’t live in Torrance, but do live within cancer distance of the 5 freeway. Victor came over and installed the monitor on my porch, and all I have to host is the electricity and wifi. Now I get to know the air quality, temperature, and humidity right at my front door. Of course on the map, it shows up in a different place for privacy.

Downtown LA from Griffith Park, December 2011

The CCA has monitors scattered all over California, to get a more accurate read on our air quality. As its map shows, there are still plenty of gaps — particularly in Carson, Lakewood, and Compton, areas through which the 710 corridor cuts its vile swath of diesel fumes from trucks heading to and from America’s busiest port. If you live in any of the areas lacking monitors on this map, scroll down below the map and sign up to host a monitor. If not, and you still want to help, there’s also a link where you can donate to CCA. This page lists some of its past achievements since the NGO’s birth in 1971. But I think it’s so rad, I’ll paste its historic wins here:

Historic Wins by the Coalition for Clean Air

  • Won the nation’s first ban on “perc,” a toxic dry cleaning chemical containing volatile organic compounds, which create smog and threaten human health.
  • Sponsored and helped pass the “Pavley” bill (AB 1493) — the first law in the nation to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from cars — providing the model for the first national emission standards for cars.
  • Spearheaded California’s original Smog Check program, which reduces 100 tons of automobile pollution daily.
  • Obtained an unprecedented $50 million settlement for air quality and neighborhood improvements, including agreement by the Port of Los Angeles’ China Shipping Terminal to commit nearly 75% of ships to “plug in” to an electrical dock outlet instead of running their engines.
  • Persuaded the governor to spend $50 million on cleaner school buses, the South Coast Air Quality Management District to require local agencies to purchase clean vehicles, and both the Los Angeles Unified School District and Metro to clean up their fleets.
  • Won a legal victory against major grocery chains, whose operations exposed low-income communities to toxic diesel exhaust; the settlement required large trucking distribution centers to reduce pollution at their facilities and to send health warnings in both Spanish and English to surrounding communities.

The monitors are made by Purple Air, so if you’re not in an area CCA needs to monitor, you can buy one here. Being the clean air nerd that I am, I did some screen shots to show the difference in readouts on a typical summer day in LA and on the 4th of July. Ignore the monitor that reads 702, it’s broken. The readouts even show the confidence rate, and that one has a confidence rate of 40%.

Here’s our monitor at noon on the 4th of July. Cleaner than expected, but then, it is a holiday.

Los Angeles air quality at noon on the 4th of July.


Clearly the air in the mountains is clearer than here. This is from noon on the 4th of July.

Things get interesting as the fireworks come out. By 10:00PM, the air in LA had gotten pretty dirty…

Then here is Los Angeles at peak fireworks time, 10PM. Wow, those explosives sure make a difference!


The entire country was lit! This is also at 10PM on the 4th. I guess some folks around Chicago had plenty of fireworks to keep the party going…

The whole world at 10PM Western US time, on the 4th of July.

Los Angeles air quality at noon during the worst summer heat wave ever. (It gets much hotter in September)


A close-up of South LA monitors at 10PM on the 4th. In case you didn’t know, fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles. But rarely is this law enforced.

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Written By

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. Which is why she's now based in Barcelona, Spain and happy to live in a city moving rapidly toward complete freedom from cars. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, urban mobility, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders.


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