Hearing weighs merits of low-cost air pollution sensors

By Sean Reilly | 04/11/2024 06:27 AM EDT

A Senate panel examined the growing popularity of sensors as a supplement to the monitoring networks EPA and other government regulators use.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) said air quality sensors are "getting better and more affordable by the day." Francis Chung/POLITICO

Even if off-the-shelf air quality sensors aren’t yet reliable enough for government regulatory purposes, they can play an important role in tracking pollution levels, witnesses told members of a Senate committee Wednesday.

“There are some big voids out there,” especially in areas prone to wildfires, Bill Obermann, a Denver-area air program supervisor, said at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. Sensors “help fill in those voids,” he said.

Obermann manages the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Love My Air” program, which taps sensors to provide real-time measurements of airborne soot.


In Denver, which has a decades-old smog problem, “it’s as common to check the air quality index and scan for air quality alerts as it is the weather on a typical summer day,” he said.