Polk County Middle School Installs Air Quality Monitor to Promote Student Safety

June 25, 2019

Andrew Whelan
Clean Air Carolina
(919) 408-7031
[email protected]


Mill Spring, North Carolina — Last week, officials at Polk County Middle School worked with Clean Air Carolina to install an air quality monitor on the school grounds that will enable students and staff to learn more about the air they breathe. Polk County Schools requested the air monitor following odor complaints as a nearby Dominion Energy natural gas facility came into operation.

Despite the concerns of county residents, a new Dominion Energy (formerly PSNC Energy) gas compressor plant was developed on Silver Creek Road just a third of a mile away from Polk County Middle School. After Dominion began purging their gas lines prior to bringing the plant into operation, area residents began complaining about a bad odor in the air. Reports of the odor came from as far away as St. Luke’s Hospital in Columbus, NC, approximately 7 miles from the natural gas plant.

Clean Air Carolina partnered with Polk County Schools to install a PurpleAir Sensor at Polk County Middle School. The PurpleAir Sensor will monitor local levels of air pollution associated with human health risks, including ground-level ozone pollution and particle pollution (PM2.5).

Breathing ozone pollution irritates the lungs, causing chest pain and coughing, and making it more difficult to fight off respiratory infections. It is especially dangerous for people with existing respiratory problems, including the nearly one in five children in North Carolina who have been diagnosed with asthma.

PM2.5 pollution is made up of particles so small that we can’t cough them out after inhaling them. Once it enters our lungs PM2.5 can pass through cell membranes, enter the bloodstream, and even cross the blood-brain barrier, making it particularly harmful to human health. The health effects of PM 2.5 exposure include asthma attacks, aggravation of heart and lung disease, and premature death.

“The staff at Polk County Schools showed a real spirit for finding the monitoring site,” said Calvin Cupini, Citizen Science Manager for Clean Air Carolina. “They really exemplify what citizen science can be, taking research and data collection into your own hands. The monitor should give students a great opportunity to see themselves as future researchers and change makers.”

In addition to alerting students, staff, and parents about local air quality on school grounds, the PurpleAir Sensor at Polk County Middle School will contribute data to Clean Air Carolina’s community-level air monitoring network. This network collects citizen science data from both mobile and stationary air sensors to empower communities to protect their health and advocate for change.


Clean Air Carolina is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure cleaner air quality for all North Carolinians through education and advocacy and by working with its partners to reduce sources of pollution. www.cleanaircarolina.org


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