Case Study

Air Quality Management in Central America and the Dominican Republic

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Air pollution currently accounts for the biggest environmental risk to health, impacting society with little to no regard for geographic or socio-demographic boundaries. More than 90% of the world's population lives in areas exceeding air quality guidelines (focused on particulate matter (PM), ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide). In Latin America and the Caribbean alone, more than 150 million people live in cities exceeding the World Health Organization air quality guidelines. Furthermore, exposure to ambient air pollution in both urban and rural communities accounted for upwards of 5 million premature deaths annually, the majority of which occur in low- and middle-income countries, and cause negative cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory disease. Vulnerable populations such as older adults, women, and children, are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes.

Photo: Battelle experts and program participants at an air quality monitoring site.

Field trips to air quality monitoring sites were organized during each in-person workshops. Battelle experts and program participants reviewed monitoring equipment, assessed the appropriateness of the site location, and reviewed best practices for calibration of the equipment.

Countries in Central America, including Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, have sought to improve their capacity to understand and communicate air pollution through monitoring of air pollutants using ground-based reference monitors or low-cost sensors; visualization of air quality data; and information dissemination to the public through the Air Quality Index and to other governmental agencies through various data-sharing platforms or other alert mechanisms.

The Solution

Battelle is working alongside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of International and Tribal Affairs to provide capacity building to Central American countries, including Ministries of Environment and Health, academic institutions, and the private and non-profit sectors to improve their management of air quality. Battelle experts facilitated an information dialogue between all countries to survey existing resources, challenges, gaps, and priorities, then achieve consensus on capacity building needs going forward. A program was developed for countries to learn best practices and access tools for air quality data quality control and assurance, analytical and technical capacity (to use and maintain air quality monitoring equipment), emission inventories and relevant models, and air quality regulations. A total of six capacity building workshops were held in various Central American countries. During each workshop, field visits were organized so that participants could view monitoring equipment and learn more about the challenges and successes each country faces. An overall goal of the program is also to strengthen relationships between countries so that they could provide peer-to-peer support when continuing to build their monitoring programs.

Photo: In-person air quality workshops

Six in-person workshops were held in countries around the region. Workshops included technical presentations and discussions.

Battelle also collaborated with EPA and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to develop an online course on air quality management and health, which was offered through PAHO's Virtual Campus for Public Health (VCPH). Narrated modules were developed and posted, as well as reflection activities, quizzes, reference documents, and other supporting materials. Battelle experts engaged with participants virtually through group discussion calls. While initially open to EPA program participants only, the materials are now available for access by a wider audience through the VCPH.

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The Outcome

Participants engaging with Battelle and EPA in this program had access to six in-person workshops and a host of online materials to support their work in strengthening their air quality management programs. In particular, they noted the importance of access to EPA's best practices on designing monitoring networks, data quality and assurance, integrating air quality monitoring data into models, and utilizing data and models to inform regulations and policies. Through the development of the course on the VCPH, participants around the world have access to our program materials.

Photo: Graphic advertising for the VCPH with logos of the organizations involved.

A course was developed on PAHO’s VCPH for the participants to access trainings, engage with each other, and review reference material. The course was opened to a wide audience after the project.

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