Leveraging Citizen Science and Low-Cost Sensors to Characterize Air Pollution Exposure of Disadvantaged Communities in Southern California

Tianjun Lu, Yisi Liu, Armando Garcia, Meng Wang, Yang Li, German Bravo-villasenor, Kimberly Campos, Jia Xu, Bin Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Assessing exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) across disadvantaged communities is understudied, and the air monitoring network is inadequate. We leveraged emerging low-cost sensors (PurpleAir) and engaged community residents to develop a community-based monitoring program across disadvantaged communities (high proportions of low-income and minority populations) in Southern California. We recruited 22 households from 8 communities to measure residential outdoor PM2.5 concentrations from June 2021 to December 2021. We identified the spatial and temporal patterns of PM2.5 measurements as well as the relationship between the total PM2.5 measurements and diesel PM emissions. We found that communities with a higher percentage of Hispanic and African American population and higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and housing burden were exposed to higher PM2.5 concentrations. The average PM2.5 concentrations in winter (25.8 µg/m3) were much higher compared with the summer concentrations (12.4 µg/m3). We also identified valuable hour-of-day and day-of-week patterns among disadvantaged communities. Our results suggest that the built environment can be targeted to reduce the exposure disparity. Integrating low-cost sensors into a citizen-science-based air monitoring program has promising applications to resolve monitoring disparity and capture “hotspots” to inform emission control and urban planning policies, thus improving exposure assessment and promoting environmental justice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8777
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • environmental inequality
  • exposure assessment
  • low-cost sensing
  • public engagement
  • traffic-related air pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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