One Mountain West City Is Tackling Air Pollution And Childhood Asthma With “Smart-City” Technology

Air quality is a major issue across much of the Mountain West. That’s true in some rural areas - such as Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin - as well as in cities like Salt Lake City, Missoula and Denver. Now Denver just won a national challenge grant, funded by Bloomberg, to tackle the problem.

According to Denver public schools, more than one in 10 children in their system have asthma.

Over the next three years the City of Denver will use the $1 million grant to set up 40 solar-powered wireless air pollution sensors at schools in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Michael Ogletree, with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said will be the largest system of its kind in the country, providing data to a digital dashboard.

Ogletree said the city’s system is unique in that it will be using the sensor network "not just for data collection but actually relaying data to the community in real time, so that they can then make decisions based on measurements that are at their schools."

Those decisions could include bringing students inside when pollution is at dangerous levels. And Ogletree said since all the data will eventually be online, the greater community will also have access to it.

He said a big focus of the project was to design a system that could be replicated in other cities with severe air pollution problems.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.