Our New Team of Student Interns

Fall is finally here and we now have a new team of KU Student Interns. We will now be able to broaden our search for poor air quality from Wyandotte county, to the nearby Johnson and Douglas Counties. We have already begun to locate potential sources of diesel exhaust that pose a threat to the quality of  air in Lawrence and Olathe and are beginning to take action to monitor these locations. The new additions to our coalition consist of seven new interns, all from the University of Kansas. With their help we aim to quantify the problem in Douglas and Johnson County, and train the public on the dangers of air pollution and what they can do to prevent it.

Our intern team consists of:

Tim Cady, a graduate student studying meteorology after receiving a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science. Tim comes to us from Boston. He became interested in air quality issues when looking into grad school. Focusing on urban areas, Tim wants his research to have an impact on the community. Tim came to CleanAirNow on word from one of his advisors. He will be working on air quality monitoring in Johnson County, as well as Lawrence and Kansas City. He wishes to verify the problem and spread awareness to the communities affected.

Megan Rush, another graduate student received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in environmental assessment. She also received a degree as a certified veterinary technician from Denver, Colorado. After an internship in Alaska Megan became interested in air quality issues, more specifically the effects they have on wildlife. She will be focusing on the air quality issues we face in Johnson County, and also any aid we may provide in the fight against Tyson in Tonganoxie.

Caitlyn Sutherland is a native Kansan, and pursuing a degree in atmospheric science. After learning of ecological issues in High School, Caitlyn decided she wanted to fight for environmental justice and conservation. She joined CleanAirNow wanting to focus on local policy issues directed at air quality. She has worked with the National Park Service in the past, and is excited to now be working at a more local level with us. She will be working on our anti idling policy in Lawrence.

Kristy Mo, also from Kansas, is studying for a degree in environmental studies. Active on campus, she is also an environmental studies student ambassador, and a Student Union Activities organizer. For as long as she can remember she has been interested in environmental issues. She wants to focus on the policies we can change to harbor a clean environment. She will be working with Caitlyn on the anti-idling policy in Lawrence.

Tristan King is majoring in environmental studies and minoring in peace and conflict issues. Hailing from the midwest, King went to his first protest at the age of one, he and his mother protested the construction of a coal plant. He will be helping with the air quality monitoring and is looking forward to the expansion of the project to new areas. Tristan will also help with our social media presence and is looking forward to the hands on experience, as well as working with good people for a good cause.

April Snay is a senior working towards her BA in Environmental Studies. Growing up in Minnesota, she spent much of her time outdoors where she first learned her love for the environment. April will help with our air quality monitoring near the Lawrence Transit Hub, as well as policy issues dealing with idling. Like many of us, she is excited about helping and educating the community on air quality issues.

Brian Schath, I am also pursuing a degree in environmental studies with a minor in communication. Growing up in Shawnee I’ve been concerned about environmental issues since watching An Inconvenient Truth in 7th grade. I joined CleanAirNow for a chance to work on local environmental justice issues. I am also an environmental studies student ambassador. I will be working with our air quality monitoring, idling policy, and helping with our social media presence.

We are very excited to begin working with the CleanAirNow coalition and look forward to the set of projects we have planned over the next few months!

Particulate matter air pollution kills elderly even at EPA’s “safe” levels

A new study of over 60 million American seniors recently shows that long-term exposure to particulate matter air pollution raises the risk of premature death of people over 65 years of age, even at levels well below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

In urban areas, diesel exhaust is one of the main sources of particulate matter, along with coal-fired power plants.

“We are now providing bulletproof evidence that we breathing harmful air.  It is very strong compelling evidence that currently, the safety standards are not safe enough.”  Francesca Dominici,  co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.

The study, “Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population”, published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risks of premature death were highest in men, low-income elders, and blacks, with blacks having mortality risks three times higher than the general population.

The study authors reported that lowering particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. by just 1 microgram per cubic meter would save 12,000 lives per year.  The current EPA annual average health standard for P.M. 2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Joel Schwartz, Harvard University professor of environmental epidemiology and the study’s senior author said “This study shows that although we think air quality in the United States is good enough to protect our citizens, in fact we need to lower pollution levels even further.”

To learn more, check out the excellent NPR audio news report or other references below.

U.S. Air Pollution Still Kills Thousands Every Year, Study Concludes, NPR Audio

 Study: Even Low-Level Air Pollution Kills the Elderly, Medpage Today

60-Million-Strong Study Shows Clear Link Between Exposure To Air Pollution & Premature Death, CleanTechnica

Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population, New England Journal of Medicine

New Harvard Study: There is No “Safe Level” of Exposure to Smog or Particulate Matter. Downwinders at risk

Flint Hills Burns Cause Unhealthy Air in Manhattan KS

 Prescribed fire smoke in Manhattan, Kansas, March 29, 2014. (Source: Wildfire Today)

Portable air pollution monitors deployed this spring by the Kansas Sierra Club and members of the CleanAirNow Coalition indicate that the health of Manhattan residents is at risk during the Flint Hills burning season. Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, is the largest population center in Kansas directly in the path of smoke moving north.

The monitors showed PM2.5 fine particle levels well above the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) on April 7 and April 11, 2017. The results were consistent with levels measured in Lincoln, Nebraska the next day.

This wholesale burning has caused exceedances of the NAAQS for PM2.5 and/or ozone at monitors in Lincoln or Omaha, Nebraska this year and in each of the previous three years. There are no continuous PM2.5 monitors between Kansas City, Ks. and the Cedar Bluff Reservoir monitor near Hays, a distance of some 280 miles, capable of monitoring a northerly moving smoke plume in Kansas.

“Short-term exposure to particulate matter air pollution can be deadly. It can trigger asthma attacks, and has been linked to strokes, heart attacks, and other serious health effects,” says Eric Kirkendall, Director of the Diesel Health Project and member of the CleanAirNow coalition.

“A lot of people in this town and at the University are at risk,” says Manhattan resident and host of one of the monitors, Carol Barta. “We need a study of the cases seen at hospitals & clinics in Manhattan and elsewhere on heavy burn days like we recently experienced.”

Big Burn in the Flint Hills, April 11, 2017

The groups are calling for KDHE to improve their ineffective 2010 Smoke Management Plan and to install continuous PM2.5 monitors to assess the health risks to small town and rural residents near the Flint Hills. They note that, unlike Kansas, Oklahoma has installed ten continuous PM2.5 particle monitors throughout the state connected to EPA’s AirNow alert system.

“State officials and stakeholders in the Flint Hills seem to think this problem will go away if they ignore it long enough,” says KSU Professor and Sierra Club member, Scott Smith. “We think that the good people of Kansas can get together with officials and fix it.”

The full report on the monitoring project may be found on the  Kansas Sierra Club website.  

CleanAirNow Cosponsors Climate March

On Saturday, April 29th, CleanAirNow cosponsored the People’s Climate March and rally in Kansas City.

Climate Movement logo from twitter.com/climatemarchKC

Hundreds marched in rainy weather to protest the Trump Administration’s outright disregard for the threat of climate change. Protesters displayed solidarity in bringing attention to an administration hostile to basic environmental protections.

Afterwards,  a rally was held that featured speakers bringing a strong, intersectional message of climate justice.

It brought attention to numerous environmental issues, from personal activity to holding corporations accountable.

It was a great opportunity for people to come together and demand environmental justice in these politically difficult times.

Special thanks to People’s Climate KC for organizing this event and allowing us to cosponsor. Follow them @ClimateMarchKC on Twitter!

CleanAirNow to Cosponsor Rally for the People’s Climate Movement (Volunteers Needed!)

On April 29, the a rally for the People’s Climate Movement will be held in Kansas City, Missouri’s Washington Square Park from 1 PM to 3 PM.

It’s a gathering of citizens, scientists, environmental advocates, social justice and labor groups who are concerned the current administration is ignoring the fact that climate change is occurring.

It will feature diverse speakers to reinforce a strong message of Climate, Justice, Jobs.

The rally is sponsored by the Kansas Sierra Club,Thomas Hart Benton/MO Sierra Club, 350KC, Kansas City Climate Coalition, NAACP, Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition and our partners who advocate for Climate, Justice, and Jobs, and CleanAirNow.

Organizers need volunteers willing “help with setting up, taking down, shepherding the crowd, giving directions” and other tasks.

You can RSVP to the rally here, and get more information through the Facebook event page.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Eric Kirkendall at kirkendall1@gmail.com

CleanAirNow Brings Air Quality Training to Kansas City, Kansas

On Tuesday, March 28, CleanAirNow and the Diesel Health Project conducted a training class on the health risks of air pollution in Kansas City, Kansas, and how people can protect themselves, their family, and their community.

 The class focused on diesel exhaust air pollution, which can trigger asthma attacks and  cause cardiovascular illness and cancer, and has been linked to many other serious diseases.

Diesel exhaust is not regulated like most dangerous air pollution, so there are no limits on how much diesel exhaust can be emitted from a freight facility like a rail yard or warehouse complex, or from truck freight transportation on a highway.

As a result, while the overall air quality in a city may meet health standards, as is usually the case in Kansas City, air quality in neighborhoods near freight facilities or along highways can be very dangerous.

The training was presented by CleanAirNow members Leticia Decaigny and Richard Mabion.  Richard is president of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of the NAACP and the city’s informal “Green Czar.”

The training event was hosted by El Centro, a very effective local nonprofit organization dedicated to “strengthening communities and improving lives of Latinos and others through educational, social, and economic opportunities.”

Training attendees included leaders from El Centro, the Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority and other organizations. EPA Region 7 Environmental Justice and Air Quality Program personnel were there to provide support and answer questions.

Students learned about the health effects of diesel exhaust air pollution, how they can protect their families and communities, and what the government and businesses can do to protect their constituents, employees, and neighbors.

Eric Kirkendall, representing CleanAirNow, was pleased with the results of the training. “It was an excellent training class. Class members were fully engaged, asked lots of great questions, and gave very positive feedback.”  More training sessions are planned for later this month.

The training is partially funded with an EPA environmental justice grant.

Disclaimer: The content of the training class does not necessarily reflect the views of the EPA, nor is it endorsed by the agency.



CleanAirNow sponsors WEALTH Day at the Kansas Statehouse

On Thursday, March 16, CleanAirNow members Daniel Beall-Hall and Michael Almon attended the Climate + Energy Project WEALTH Day at the Kansas State Capitol, and hosted a booth at the Solutions Showcase.

 Michael Almon is also a board member of Sustainability Action Network, fiscal sponsor of CleanAirNow.

Approximately 200 people attended Wealth Day, and participated in briefings, presentations, lunch, and other activities. Other sponsors with information tables included the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of the NAACP and the Kansas Sierra Club.

WEALTH Day was an excellent event and great opportunity for CleanAirNow to share information about the health effects of air pollution with elected officials and members of the public.

Pollution Monitoring with Earthworks

 On Monday, February 27th, 2017, members of CleanAirNow met with officials from Earthworks to monitor air pollution in Kansas City.Eric Kirkendall, Daniel Beall-Hall, and Richard Mabion, President of the NAACP in KCK, represented CleanAirNow.  Hilary Lewis and Sharon Wilson represented Earthworks. Photographer Clifton Rendón‎ documented the team’s work in photographs, some of which are featured here.

CleanAirNow is a partnership of community groups, educational, research, environmental, health, other organizations, and individual members dedicated to improving air quality.

Earthworks is an environmental group that “stands for clean air, water and land, healthy communities, and corporate accountability.”

Earthworks staff are experts in use of the FLIR Gasfinder 320 Infrared Camera. It can detect around 20 airborne gases that might cause health problems. The camera overlays conventional video images with infrared images, and uses computer processing to make the gases visible.

Gases that can be detected by the FLIR camera include 1-Pentene, Benzene, Butane, Ethane, Ethanol, Ethylbenzene, Ethylene, Heptane, Hexane, Isoprene, MEK, Methane, Methanol, MIBK, Octane, Pentane, Propane, Propylene, Toluene, and Xylene.

Monitoring was done near public parks and areas where workers, children, seniors, and other residents are vulnerable to air pollution.

CleanAirNow members gained insight on which kinds of sites can be monitored for polluting emissions, such as tank farms. They were also informed about what weather conditions footage is best captured in –  when the wind is low.

Although the wind was a challenge, the team successfully captured video of air pollution emissions from a BNSF fuel storage tank near the BNSF Argentine Railyard.  Check out the video below, which shows gases being emitted at the top of the tank.

Special thanks to Clifton Rendón‎ for his photos and the Earthworks team for working with us and sharing this video!


CleanAirNow holds first membership meeting

The CleanAirNow coalition held its first membership meeting on March 2. at the Community Health Coalition of Wyandotte County.

After planning for over a year, we were happy to reach this point.  Members  from the Kansas City area and other cities attended the meeting in person, by phone, and by video conference.

 During the meeting, we reviewed and discussed the mission and goals of CleanAirNow, reviewed work now underway or planned, and discussed future initiatives.

Work underway includes the analysis of lab results from recent air pollution monitoring in Kansas City, Kansas, and preparations for air pollution training, which begins soon.

We also talked about the air pollution workshop we are planning to hold in a few months, and the potential of implementing the IVAN environmental reporting system  in the KC region.

 As our last step, we voted for our representative to the national Moving Forward Network.  Eric Kirkendall will be our representative for at least a few months, until we elect someone else from CleanAirNow.





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