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SLO County Air Pollution Control District works to expand local air quality monitoring

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is asking for the public’s help in expanding its air quality monitoring on the Central Coast.

The APCD manages and operates regulatory monitors across the county to track air quality. The county also has a number of PurpleAir particulate matter sensors across the Central Coast that contribute to air quality tracking.

The APCD is looking to expand its breadth of tracking by encouraging people to host a PurpleAir sensor at their home in areas that have fewer existing monitors and sensors.

Meghan Field is a public information officer and air quality specialist with the SLO County APCD. She said there are some holes in air quality monitoring in North County in San Simeon and parts of Highway 41. Field said the APCD is looking to fill in the gaps.

“It really just helps us, not only see what the air pollution is doing in our little microclimates, since we have so many in this area, but better track when we have smoke in our sky — seeing how the smoke plume is moving — to be able to better inform people,” Field said.

Field said air conditions across San Luis Obispo County vary significantly with temperature and wind. She said having precision air quality tracking is important for public health.

“When we have these wildfires — I feel like they’ve become part of life here in California — we can see how the smoke is moving into our county, what specific communities it’s impacting,” Field said. “That way we can more quickly let people know how they can protect their health.”

Field said being able to respond quickly to poor air quality in your area can mitigate some of the immediate negative health effects like itchy eyes, scratchy throat and coughing. Long-term, Field said poor air quality can exacerbate asthma and cause heart or lung conditions.

Field said over the last 10 years, air quality has generally improved. She said wildfire smoke typically worsens air quality in the summer months but the Central Coast has seen generally good air quality this summer.

Any resident of San Luis Obispo County can apply to receive a PurpleAir particulate matter sensor from the APCD. The unit is free but installation and maintenance is required. The sensor also requires electricity and WIFI.

For more information about air quality monitoring in San Luis Obispo County, click here. To learn more about how PurpleAir sensors work, click here. To apply for a PurpleAir sensor, email mfield@co.slo.ca.us.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.