Air Quality Monitoring

What is in the air? 

Unconventional gas development can pollute the air in many different ways releasing particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons. Some of this air pollution is visible like smoke from diesel engines or fires at the well and some air pollution is not visible, at least to the naked eye. Gases like methane are invisible often leak or are vented from well sites, pipelines and compressor stations. Because you cannot see them you may not even know you are being exposed to them. The videos below show infrared footage of methane releases. Notice how you can see it billowing into the air with the heat-sensitive footage, and how it is barely visible when the infrared is turned off. These compressor stations and condensate tanks exist within every area that is host to natural gas development. 

Left; Tonkin Compressor Station Murrysville, PA Right; Condensate tanks in Colorado​

Click here to read the Earthworks Blog post about their visit with Protect PT this past summer.

Air Quality Monitoring

Protect your family by monitoring your air NOW for a baseline.

 Air quality monitoring is an important tool that can be used to protect yourself and your environment when living in close proximity to industrial practices, like shale gas development.  Air pollution from shale gas development is known to cause many health problems from burning eyes and throat to long-term effects such as cancer, poor birth outcomes, and cardiovascular disease.  This air pollution is produced throughout the stages of the drilling and production process and will go on for the life of the well.  If you live within three miles of a well site you can be exposed to emissions containing harmful volatile organic compounds like toluene, ethylbenzene, and formaldehyde, radon gas from drilling, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter from truck exhaust. 


What emissions can we monitor?

Particulate Matter(PM) - Particulate Matter is tiny particles that travel on the air we breathe.  It is a prime way VOCs, which easily attach to particles in the air,  are introduced into the body and can cause serious health effects. With oil and gas development PM is one of the largest contributors to these negative health impacts. The presence of PMs can be measured using an air quality monitor such as the SPECK monitor.  To participate in a program for monitoring your air quality click here or see the form below to get started. 


Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) - VOCs are organic chemical compounds that easily become vapors and affect the quality of your indoor and outdoor air.  The compounds released from oil and gas drilling contain known and suspected carcinogens and can cause short and long-term health impacts. VOC's can be measured in your home or outdoors using a SUMMA canister to draw in a sample of your air, which is then sent to a lab for analysis. Click here if you would like to learn more about SUMMA canister testing and analysis.


Radon - Radon, the #1 cause of lung cancer outside of smoking, is a radioactive gas that everyone breathes in every day, usually at low levels, according to the National Cancer Institute.  The levels of radon in the air are known to increase in the presence of oil and gas drilling.  It is measured with a radon monitor usually placed in your basement.  For information on reducing your exposure to radon in your home click here.  


To learn more about these pollutants and how to protect your health visit the Protect Our Children Coalition website and download the Health Impacts Powerpoint Presentation. 



How does weather affect air quality?

Weather conditions have an effect on the quality of your indoor and outdoor air. For example, sunshine,
rain, air temperature, humidity, and wind can increase or decrease the amount of air pollution you are
exposed to:

       *Sunshine- makes hydrocarbons undergo chemical reactions, producing smog.
      *Higher air temperatures - speed up chemical reactions in the air.
      *Rain - washes out water-soluble pollutants and particulate matter.
      *Humidity- particulate matter attaches to water droplets in the air dissolving pollutants and
       increasing airborne pollution

     *Wind speed and atmospheric turbulence - affect dispersal and concentration of pollutants




The  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established the Air Quality Index (AQI) a measure for reporting daily air quality based on how clean or polluted the air is in your community. A high AQI value indicates a greater level of air pollution and increased health risks. AQI is based on five major pollutants - ozone, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. The two that pose the highest health risks are ozone and fine particulate matter. The EPA implemented the Clean Air Act to control air pollution, but millions of Americans live in areas that exceed government-established safety levels.


People with diabetes, lung disease, asthma, or heart disease are very sensitive to air pollution. A high AQI reading can make it harder to breathe or worsen chronic disease by irritating lungs and airways. Fine particles can lodge deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Children are particularly susceptible to asthma because their lungs and defense systems are developing. Children breathe more rapidly than adults and take in more air per pound, which exposes them to higher levels of fine particulate or pollutants.


For more information, you can download our How Weather Affects The AQI handout.



The Air Quality Index (AQI) can
be used to plan your day and
change your behavior to protect
you and your family’s health
against the harmful effects of
air pollution. The index consists of six categories arranged by weather type and associated risk level. This information, along with AQI levels for your area, can also be found on the EPA’s website 


We have created a magnet that coincides with the EPA’s AQI chart for quick reference. Click here to request a magnet.




    • Avoid heavy exertion outside

    • Stay indoors if possible
    • Close doors and windows
    • Run air filters




Download the Speck Sensor App at to stay informed about trends and changes in particulate


This app provides 

daily AQI data

for your area.

Improving Indoor Air Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency rates air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks. Taking steps to improve your indoor air quality can help reduce your risk of health impacts. The EPA offers a guide which includes information on types of indoor air pollution and how to choose an appropriate in-home air cleaner. There are several options as far as whole-home air cleaners and room air cleaners. Proper ventilation that provides fresh air is considered the most effective. 


There are easy cost effective changes you can make that will start to improve your air quality right away. 

Easy Steps For Reducing Indoor Air Pollution 


  1. Keep the floors clean: Vacuum and mop often (carpets hold a lot of dirt and pollutants so hard surfaces are the best option), keep shoes off in the house, doormats at each door to collect dirt

  2. Proper ventilation: keep fresh air flowing in your home when possible, if outdoor air is polluted by a nearby source you can use a homemade HEPA filter in your windows to catch particulate matter in the air. Click here for instructions on building a home HEPA filter. 

  3. Humidity: Maintaining a humidity level of 30%-50% will help reduce mold and dust mites in your home

  4. Fragrance: The fragrances in many household cleaners and toiletries are harmful to your health. Choose naturally scented or unscented to reduce this type of exposure. You can also make your own home cleaners which will reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals.

  5. Do not smoke inside.

  6. Check for Radon in your home. To learn more about Radon visit our Fracking In Your Neighborhood page.

Air Monitoring Form

A community utilizing SPECK air monitoring to test and gather air quality data will be able to ensure they know what is in the air and take action to protect themselves. The current DEP regulations and gas company self-monitoring systems are not sufficient to calculate the risk of long-term exposure to these pollutants and the aggregate effect they may have, making community involvement highly important.  To participate in monitoring please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you. 



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