Is your neighborhood’s air polluted? New website tracks air quality across the St. Louis region. | Subway


ST. LOUIS — A new website launched Tuesday enables the public to track air quality in St. Louis neighborhoods, thanks to a network of monitors stationed primarily on churches around the region.

The site, called AirWatch St. Louis, provides up-to-the-hour data about current conditions and specific pollutants. Groups behind the project say it’s information “that researchers, residents and community leaders can use to address health problems that have plagued historically disenfranchised neighborhoods for generations,” according to an announcement Tuesday.

“The St. Louis and Metro East region suffer some major problems with air quality, disproportionately impacting communities of color,” Sister Dolores Sanchez, an environmental justice team member for area church association Metropolitan Congregations United, said in the statement.

Funding and support for the effort comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Missouri Foundation for Health, and the Anthropocene Institute. Entities such as Washington University and The Nature Conservancy are partnering on the science behind the project.

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The website launch is described as “the next step” in a collaborative effort by regional churches to track air pollution, and helps underscore the disparities that face local neighborhoods where the majority of residents are Black — an inequity reinforced in research including a 2019 Environmental Racism Report from Washington U.

The 2019 report found that Black children in St. Louis are about 10 times more likely to develop asthma than white kids. And the area’s majority-Black neighborhoods are often in places close to major pollution sources, including industrial sites, busy highways, and inadequately managed building demolitions, the report said.

But those behind AirWatch St. Louis say that the region doesn’t know enough about air quality data in neighborhoods. That’s why, starting last year, Metropolitan Congregations United teamed up with Washington U. researchers to install air monitors mainly on local churches — sensors that provide the data now showcased by the new website.

Researchers expect to eventually identify a more complete picture of air quality in neighborhoods and the pollutants that hurt residents.

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