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Is your air quality better than your neighbor’s?

Ever wonder how much air quality can differ from one neighborhood in your area to another? According to a new study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), the answer is a lot. Using a model based on artificial intelligence techniques, regional air quality readings and information about local geography, they measured very fine particulate matter in more than 250 Los Angeles neighborhoods and communities. Their findings: air pollution levels differ dramatically across various areas in the county.

The study

The research, conducted by Crosstown, a joint project of several departments at USC, tracked measurements of very fine particulate matter. Breathing such tiny particles, which generally are emitted from vehicles and power plants, has been linked to everything from high rates of asthma and higher blood pressure to dementia. Specifically, researchers analyzed how many times fine particulate matter levels entered an unhealthy range for people, such as asthma sufferers and the elderly, who are especially sensitive to air quality.

Researchers analyzed hourly particulate matter levels in 251 neighborhoods across L.A. County between November 2016 and October 2017. The data was then converted into the Air Quality Index, a scale created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track healthy air levels.

The methodology

The Crosstown methodology aggregates hyperlocal air quality predictions from an artificial intelligence model developed by the Spatial Sciences Institute. It takes hourly readings of atmospheric particulate matter levels from the 12 reporting sites of the EPA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District located throughout L.A. County. That information is then run through a data mining engine, which accounts for the surrounding geographic context of every area in LA County, as well as information about factors such as road types.

The conclusion

Researchers learned that air pollution in certain neighborhoods was significantly higher than in others. The levels in Chinatown, for example, were in a range considered unhealthy for sensitive groups at a whopping 147 times during the year studied. The area with the most hours of healthy air was Altadena, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.

What you can do

No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to pay attention to your local Air Quality Index and try to stay inside as much as you can if it’s high. To keep indoor air quality levels healthy, install a smart air purifier, like Coway Airmega, that can help eliminate the amount of particulate matter you might be breathing.