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Publication Date

Fall 2018

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Rachel E. O’Malley


Environmental health, Environmental justice, Impacted by air pollution, Impacted communities, Impacted Schools, Santa Clara County

Subject Areas

Environmental justice; Environmental health; Environmental studies


Particle matter (PM) in the air is an increasingly serious health problem. Children are more susceptible than adults, and racial minorities and the poor are disproportionately burdened. In 2014, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District identified communities impacted by cumulative air pollutants in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment created CalEnviroScreen 2.0 to identify areas affected by air pollution. Both tools model air pollutants at the regional level but lack the resolution needed to quantify PM at the school scale. This study explores the use of low-cost air monitors to measure PM to assess environmental injustice in air pollution. Data from low-cost monitors were used to evaluate risk disparities across schools with differing sociodemographic characteristics. Five Dylos 1700 monitors were used to measure PM at 24 schools in 2017 in Santa Clara County, California. Data were compared with stationary air monitor data and with school sociodemographic characteristics. Analysis reveals an 81% correlation between PM detected by low-cost air monitors versus the stationary monitor but finds no association between school sociodemographic characteristics and exposure to PM. Recommendations include recruiting schools into a network of low-cost, school-site air quality monitors to improve models and to identify and prevent environmental injustice at the local scale.