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Denver Air Quality a Priority for 2020

Denver Public Health & Environment to expand and strengthen its air quality monitoring program

In 2020, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) will partner with public and private researchers to begin a targeted, multi-year effort to better understand and identify the sources of  air pollution in Denver.

This effort includes the deployment of new technology to identify additional pollutants, such as black carbon or soot and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), additional data analysis, and more detailed tracking of odor complaints, to better discern mobile versus industrial sources contributing to air pollution. This effort will focus on North Denver because of the unique impacts on air quality resulting from industrial air pollution emissions and odors, as well as significant construction projects.

“As residential development expands along Brighton Blvd. and the South Platte River valley, we must expand our understanding of air quality to improve the quality of life for those who live in these disproportionately impacted neighborhoods,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, “This data will help inform future policy decisions that protect our environment.”

DDPHE is building on work started in 2019 to increase air monitoring through a nationally recognized effort called Love My Air Denver, which is funded through 2021 via the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayor’s Challenge and in-kind support from DDPHE. The Love My Air program focuses on increasing the monitoring of fine particulate matter at or near schools through a formal partnership with Denver Public Schools. These efforts will also be expanded in 2020 to include additional locations and to evaluate more pollutants. 

While DDPHE will increase the locations for measuring air quality, we understand that we cannot deploy monitors and sensors everywhere. Utilizing sophisticated air quality models, as well as tools being developed by university research partners, DDPHE will fill in the gaps between monitors and sensors using real-world monitoring data. Most importantly, DDPHE will develop a user-friendly interface to make sure that this data is accessible to the public. In the interim, DDPHE will provide data summary reports through its website and other public communication channels.   

Through teamwork at the federal, state, and local levels, Denver has made great strides in reducing air pollution over the past 30 years. Since 1990, Denver County’s population has increased by over 50%. In metro Denver, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) more than doubled. In the same time frame in downtown Denver: carbon monoxide was reduced over 80%, sulfur dioxide was reduced over 90%, nitrogen dioxide was reduced 50%, and fine particulate matter was reduced over 35%. 

Important hazardous air pollutants like benzene were also reduced by 90%. However, we still face air quality challenges, most importantly for the ozone and the pollutants that lead to its formation. But as we look ahead to the next decade, important policies and technologies in our toolbox are being threatened. In order to measure the potential impact these changes could bring, DDPHE is ramping up efforts to monitor air pollution in Denver. 

We need members of our community to be our eyes and ears in your neighborhoods. Please contact 311 if you experience pollution or odor concerns. We must continue to make progress on our air quality, and DDPHE stands ready to do its part to ensure we leave a legacy of which all generations in Denver can be proud.