FNSB North Pole AQ Monitoring — Live Air Quality Data real-time, hourly PM 2.5 monitoring reports from the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The monitoring site is the North Pole Elementary School (250 Snowman Lane).
Tutorial 1 — Get hourly AQ reports for North Pole: Go to Live Air Quality Data — FNSB AQ Monitoring. When the map of Alaska comes up, click your computer mouse on the blue dot over Fairbanks, then click “ClickStationInfo” to see the monitoring data for 1-hour (PM2.5L 1hr) and 24-hour (PM25L_24). While it says, “Last Received” this mini report may omit some hourly reports you can find in the monthly tables (see below).
[Difficulties? The map of Alaska will not load unless you allow web content that was not delivered securely—click “no” on security warning. Also, if it still isn’t working, try a different web browser as some do not work with this application.]
Tutorial 2 — Get month-long tables of hourly data for North Pole: Go to Live Air Quality Data — FNSB AQ Monitoring. Click on “Data Reports” on the left column, then beneath that click “Matrix.” In the box, select Station “North Pole Elementary” and Monitor “PM2.5L 1hr.” Then set the start date for the first day of the month you want: 12/1/2010 or 1/1/2011 both work. Then push “GenerateReport” at the bottom of the box. These tables report the most current data every hour (unless the monitor isn’t working), the lowest PM 2.5 concentration recorded that day (Min), the highest concentration (Max), and the 24-hour average concentration (Ave).
Wouldn’t it be great to have more monitoring sites on-line? Limited availability of public information has hindered general understanding of the severity and primary sources of our PM 2.5.
What’s the North Pole AQ monitoring data show? Based on the monthly tables, 7 exceedances over EPA’s 35 micrograms/cubic meter standard were recorded in December 2010 (only half the month reported data) and 2 exceedences have been recorded so far in January 2011 (thru 1/5). The highest hourly PM 2.5 concentrations recorded in Dec. 2010 at the North Pole Elementary monitoring site was 119.3 micrograms at 11 pm. During the winter of 2009-2010, the borough sniffer vehicle recorded an instantaneous reading (not hourly) concentration of over 2,000 micrograms at Lineman Ave and Dawson Road in North Pole.
How’s North Pole compare with Fairbanks? The FNSB Air Quality Index reported the 24-hour average at the downtown monitor (675 7th Ave) was 21.1 micrograms as of 4 pm on 1/5/2011. For the preceding 24-hour period (from 5 pm the previous day to 4 pm on 1/5/2011), the average in North Pole was 55.6, significantly higher than in downtown Fairbanks. The maximum hourly concentration recorded at the North Pole site on 1/5/2011 was 94.2.
When is it necessary to take health precautions? View Judging Particulate Levels in Your Area from EPA. According to this table, when hourly concentrations hit 81 micrograms or 24-hour averages hit 35.5, even healthy children should “limit prolonged exertion.” “Unusually sensitive individuals” including children with lung conditions, such as bronchitis or asthma, or heart problems should be protected at lower PM 2.5 concentrations. Recent studies have found increased mortality with short-term exposure to PM 2.5 concentrations less than 20 μg/m3, considerably below the “health-based” 24-hour standard of 35 μg/m3. [See Dr. Lori Verbrugge, Alaska Division of Public Health, 2009 Symposium Presentation.]
North Pole Elementary, Middle, and High School principals and school nurses can now use Live Air Quality Data — FNSB AQ Monitoring to determine during any given hour 1) whether recess should be held outside or inside, 2) whether athletic practice and competitions should be held, 3) whether to take extra precautions to protect health-compromised children such as asthma or bronchitis, and 4) when it is time to turn off school air ventilation system to prevent drawing dirty air inside. The public availability of North Pole Elementary’s PM 2.5 air monitoring reports turns up the heat for school indoor air testing as indoor air is not filtered at any school in the borough. Air in classrooms and halls may be as bad as what’s outside.
Find North Pole Elementary School, 250 Snowman Lane, on Google maps. Visit the North Pole Elementary School School District website. North Pole Elementary is attended by 483 students, including 24 students with notations of “asthma” in school medical files, and students are supported by 30 teachers and 34 other school district employees. The health of school district employees as well as students is at risk from elevated PM 2.5. Hundreds more students attend North Pole Middle School (585 students, 48 asthma-notations) and North Pole High School (781 students, 41 asthma notations), located within 2,000 feet of North Pole Elementary where the PM 2.5 readings are taken.
Map of possible PM 2.5 sources near North Pole Elementary School (from DEC) [124KB]. The North Pole Elementary School is located near “Snowman” in the lower left hand corner of the map. The flags are color coded: Green (23) = indoor woodstove; Red (22) = Outdoor Wood Boiler; Blue (4) = Outdoor Coal Boiler. Some of the wood boilers burn coal also. The flags are not comprehensive; many areas have not been researched. Other sources of PM 2.5 such as diesel vehicles, such as idling near the school, are not shown. Contrast the number of flagged potential sources (49) with the thousands of people living nearby.