TEP Tracks Traffic-Related Air Pollution Near Regional School Zones

Last Updated on October 07, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Originally published October 07, 2020

By Christina Rodriguez

UTEP Communications

The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Civil Engineering was awarded $30,000 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) through the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin to address community exposure to traffic related air pollution near school zones in the Paso del Norte region using low-cost air sensors.

The University of Texas at El Paso's Department of Civil Engineering was awarded $30,000 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through The University of Texas at Austin to address community exposure to traffic-related air pollution near school zones in the Paso del Norte region using low-cost air sensors. Leading the research efforts at the University are, from left, principal investigator, Wen-Whai Li, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, and co-PI, Mayra Chavez, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate.

The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Civil Engineering was awarded $30,000 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through The University of Texas at Austin to address community exposure to traffic-related air pollution near school zones in the Paso del Norte region using low-cost air sensors. Leading the research efforts at the University are, from left, principal investigator, Wen-Whai Li, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, and co-PI, Mayra Chavez, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate.

Through this award, researchers at UTEP and Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) will conduct a case study to analyze the air quality of the Paso del Norte region aimed at reducing exposure to traffic-related air pollutants in children, particularly those who attend schools near heavily traveled roadways.

Leading the research efforts at the University are principal investigator Wen-Whai Li, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering; co-PI, Mayra Chavez, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate; and Evan Williams, undergraduate research assistant. Adrian Vazquez Galvez, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, is charged with research efforts at UACJ.

The study will address the air quality issues in the Paso del Norte region by strategically placing low-cost air sensors, requiring only a power outlet and WiFi, near schools throughout El Paso and Juárez, Mexico. The sensors will provide the research team with real-time, precise air quality measurements and related data to develop an algorithm that predicts air pollution for near-road receptors.

“We are concerned about the impacts of traffic-related and regional industrial pollution on the health of children and community residents in the border cities of the Paso del Norte region,” Chavez said.

The need to address exposure to traffic-related air pollution is imperative due to the high rate of urbanization and industrial development of the region that has led to rapidly deteriorating air quality. The region’s air quality also faces unique challenges due to a number of factors that include complex terrain, arid weather, frequently occurring temperature inversions, congested roadways, insufficient emission inventory for Juárez’s uncontrolled emissions, a large number of underserved communities and rapid urban sprawl.

“Transportation in Ciudad Juárez is the blood for our maquila industry but at the same time remains one of the principal challenges to improve the air quality in the basin,” Vazquez said.

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