The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s (EPIC) Clean Air Program is proud to announce four grants to increase the availability of open air quality data in countries targeted as having a high opportunity to substantially improve their pollution nationally. With funding support from Open Philanthropy, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and EPIC, the awards will directly help to scale fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) monitoring networks in areas that have traditionally lacked them.

“History teaches us that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Publicly available air quality data is an essential first building block for cleaner air and better health,” says Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of EPIC. “Citizens need the data to protect themselves against the risks of air pollution. And data is needed by policymakers to develop and enforce air quality standards so progress can be measured over time.”

The four EPIC Air Quality Awardees are local community organizations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, Argentina and Côte D’Ivoire. These four countries do not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline for a safe level of exposure to particulate pollution. As a result, the Air Quality Life Index finds that citizens from these countries are losing 349 million combined total life years because of the air they breathe. Across the four awarded countries, there currently exists only nine government air quality monitors sharing data online. As a comparison, there are more government monitors in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has four percent of the population of these four countries and much lower levels of pollution. Through these grants, EPIC expects to support the deployment of approximately thirty-four PM2.5 sensors.

“All four of these awards support regions of the world where a critical building block for bringing about clean air is missing: open air quality data,” says Christa Hasenkopf, Director of the Clean Air Program at EPIC. “The awardees’ work will make major strides towards closing these country-wide data gaps, and their work will also inform and improve global air pollution efforts. Most importantly, awardees will be executing national-level plans to use the data to bring clean air to their countries.”

According to the Clean Air Fund, three of the four EPIC Air Quality Awardees received no funding from development agencies to confront air pollution in 2022. None of the awardees have wide-spread open air quality data produced by their governments, and three do not have ambient air quality standards. All four of the awards will produce fully open PM2.5 data, and two awards have specifically set a goal for making progress toward establishing a national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5.

“Open Philanthropy is happy to support these inaugural EPIC Air Quality Awards,” said Santosh Harish, a Program Officer leading grantmaking in environmental health at Open Philanthropy. “We believe they leverage an outsized but rarely realized philanthropic opportunity to make air quality publicly accessible in countries with negligible monitoring data. Improved measurement increases the chance of government and public engagement with the problem, and could lead to improved air quality levels over the long term.”

EPIC is partnering with two organizations to offer technical assistance with opening up data. EPIC Air Quality Awardees will receive in-kind technical support from OpenAQ, a nonprofit environmental tech organization, to help make the Awardee’s data fully open to the public. AirGradient, a company that produces fully open-source air quality monitors that promote open-data sharing, is offering Awardees in-kind educational services and a discounted rate on their products.

Learn more about the EPIC Air Quality Awardees:

Dr. Sunkaru Touray, Cofounder, Permian HealthThe Gambia: The grant will support establishing and scaling the first real-time PM2.5 monitoring network in the Gambia and will provide access to fully open data. These efforts will enable the National Environment Agency, one of the awardee’s organizational partners, to set and monitor air quality standards in the country. It will also scale the awardee’s efforts to issue widespread alerts in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

Awardee: Permian Health Lung Institute, co-founded by Dr. Awa Sabally-Touray, an internal medicine physician, and Dr. Sunkaru Touray, a pulmonologist

“I am honored to receive this EPIC Air Quality award on behalf of the Permian Health Clean Air Initiative. This award will greatly enhance our current efforts to expand nationwide air quality monitoring and support the National Environment Agency and Ministry of Health to incorporate air pollution into national strategic planning and policy making, ultimately improving health outcomes for Gambians,” – Dr. Sunkaru Touray, Cofounder, Permian Health

Rodrigo Gastón Gibilisco, Founder, Breathe2ChangeArgentina: The grant will support establishing a real-time PM2.5 network in Argentina that provides access to fully open data across multiple provinces where there is currently none. The awardees will deploy portable sensor modules across the ten most highly polluted of Argentina’s 23 provinces. The openly available data will empower regulators to make informed decisions. The dissemination of findings from the openly available data will be facilitated through their partnerships with various embassies in Argentina (France, Germany, and Italy), international NGOs (United Nations, Pan American Health Organization, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation), and local governmental and private sectors.

Awardee: Breathe2Change eXpand (B2CX) led by Rodrigo Gastón Gibilisco, founder of Breathe2Change.

“EPIC’s recognition of Breathe2Change mission is truly inspiring! It highlights the importance of clean air as a global endeavour without boundaries. This award energizes us to ramp up our efforts, fostering unity to ensure clean, breathable air for all.” – Rodrigo Gastón Gibilisco, Founder, Breathe2Change

Therence TEMFACK, Project Manager, data354Côte D’Ivoire: The grant will support deploying the first nationwide network of low-cost PM2.5 sensors and will provide data in a fully open manner. It will also bring a task force of actors from public and private sectors. The task force will include the District Autonome d’Abidjan, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Health, and the National Pharmacists’ Association. The task force will sign a convention that defines its aims, its functioning, and how it intends to reach its goals for clean air. Based on insights from the data collected through the air quality sensor network, the task force will raise awareness, advocate for policy updates, and create a concrete draft of legislation aimed at taking protective and tangible measures.

Awardee: Air Quality 54 (AQ54), an initiative of ‘data354’.

“This award from EPIC will be transformative for our efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, allowing us to expand the network of sensors for open air quality data in the country, and collaborate with a diverse task force. This support will catalyze our vision for national impact, enhancing data-driven strategies to increase awareness and lead to policy changes for cleaner, healthier air.” – Therence TEMFACK, Project Manager, data354

Paulson KASEREKA ISEVULAMBIRE, Founder of WASARUDemocratic Republic of the Congo: This grant will support the first long-term PM2.5 monitoring network in DRC that will provide access to fully open data. By making this data openly available and collaborating with key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Public Health, The Kinshasa School of Public Health, University of Kinshasa, and others, the work will provide decision-makers at all levels with actionable data and actively engage with the community to improve air quality across the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Awardee: Kinshasa Air Quality (KINAQ), a project by Paulson KASEREKA ISEVULAMBIRE through partnership with Professor Daniel Westervelt of Columbia University

“This award will boost our local efforts of community air quality monitoring and will increase our leadership on air quality monitoring at DRC national level, open a way to engage and involve more key stakeholders (government, researchers, students and community), amplify our impacts at national level, especially with influencing air quality policy making in DR Congo.” – Paulson KASEREKA ISEVULAMBIRE, Founder of WASARU

EPIC Clean Air Program

The EPIC Clean Air Program is working to bring actionable information about the quality of the air we breathe and its impact on our health to every corner of the globe in order to motivate action and lay guideposts for efficient air pollution policies. This work includes an Air Quality Monitoring and Data Access project to bring high quality and high frequency air pollution monitoring and data access to the places of the world where it is needed most; the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), which uses air pollution data to translate the impact of pollution on a person’s life expectancy; and several particulate pollution trading markets being piloted in Indian cities in coordination with state governments.

Areas of Focus: Environment
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