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Texas A&M University develops mobile testing unit to detect air quality after disasters

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - In an effort to help with detecting air pollution in disaster events, Texas A&M’s Superfund Research Center and the School of Public Health have come together to develop the Mobile Responding for Air Pollution in Disasters, or mRAPiD air quality testing van.

The mRAPiD was made to use during disaster events like hurricanes when there is a release of airborne pollutants. While it’s being used it can give information on the air quality immediately to communities and first responders that are at risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Natalie Johnson, one of the recipients of a grant that was funded through Texas A&M’s Research Development Fund, said the school saw a need to get more information on the particles we breathe in every day. ”For a variety of volatile organic compounds which are known as VOC’s, there’s a lack of data on what’s in the air routinely as well as after different environmental disaster events so we became really interested in how we can get hyperlocal VOC sampling in areas that might have elevated emissions,” says Johnson

The concept of the van came about after some large-scale disasters released harmful chemicals or pollutants into communities. Hurricane Harvey released emissions of benzene in the Houston area. Johnson and the other recipients hope the mRAPiD van can be a resource used statewide to respond to pollution events that follow a disaster.

The van will also be used for routine air sampling for research projects by the Superfund Research Center. mRAPiD will also sample air for exposure assessments in specific communities when requested.

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