Analyzing air quality after the last sensor in Quincy, IL disappeared

A cursory analysis of the air quality in Quincy, IL

Published on

filed under "The Dumpster Fire Project"

by WFL

A while back I launched The Dumpster Fire Project. I had hoped to collect a year's worth of data on the air quality in my area, but it seems that my hopes have turned into the particulate matter that causes me so much respiratory issues.

Shortly after I wrote the previous post on air quality in Quincy, IL, that new sensor went down, too.

That means my year-long data collection has been reduced to just under 6 months; not a bad range, but I'd rather have the full year to capture all the seasonal data, too.

I decided that - since I'm basically shuttering the project early - I'd do a preliminary analysis of some of the more interesting aspects of the local air quality over a 6 month period. I'll most likely do a deeper-dive (with visualizations) further down the road, but that'll be data-dependent and I haven't fully settled on what I want to do yet.

So, let's get into it.

First, an important detail on how data was collected: The sensor was tapped every hour for an update, and all I collected was the AQI value, rather than specific particle densities. This is the data used to create the visualization on the site itself, and is a reasonable method of measuring overall air quality in general.

Dangerous air quality in Quincy, IL - when the AQI value was above 200 - ocurred 8 times over a 6 month period.

The first was a over a 36 hour period, and contained the 2 highest values I recorded during the collection time. November 9th & 10th saw values hit 381 & 456, respectively.

Now, it should be noted that these weren't sustained values; we hit the spike at the hour I hit the sensor twice, but otherwise the air quality was below the 200 range.. But it should also be noted that this sensor was in a residential area, so a spike that bad is most certainly not insignificant. In fact, the overall air quality during that time period was actually in the acceptable ranges of 30-60 for the most part.

The other spike is more troubling for a different reason: On March 23, 2024 - when I updated to the new sensor that was just a few blocks away from the old one - We saw sustained air quality in the 220-250 range for many, many hours; it did dip infrequently below 200, but it was bad, my friends.

Unfortunately, the sensor was shut down not too long afterwards during that spike, and my respiratory issues were flaring hard for a while (as well as before, which is how I knew I needed to update the sensor I was querying).

How bad was the air quality for allergy sufferers? Aside from the above points, we also saw a lot of air quality issues in the 100-200 AQI range.. Which for folks like me is certainly not fun.

Many people like me hav asthma that is impacted by respiratory allergens, and when the air quality is above 100, I'm guaranteed to have allergy issues no matter what I'm doing to treat them (I do a combination of a pill antihistamine, a nasal antihistamine, and a decongestant).

We had nearly 200 points over the 6 month period where the air quality was in this range. That ended up being about 6% of the total data collected when you include the above-200 AQI recordings.

While 6% may not seem like much, this was spread out over the entire range.. Including during winter, when natural allergens such as pollen tend to be exceptionally low.

This means that most of the particulate matter in the air was due to pollution.

It should also be noted that 100-150 is concerned bad for folks sensitive to AQI problems; 150+ is considered bad for everybody in general. Most of that 100-200 range was closer to 100, thankfully, but it's still not great, and with the number of folks who suffer from respiratory issues (especially post-COVID), this is less than ideal.

How often was the air quality "good"? Just so we're not focusing on the negative entirely.. Well, actually, now that I look at the data, it's definitely a half-full/half-empty situation.

Almost exactly 50% of the hourly data points collected showed the AQI value to be below 50, which is good.. However, that also means that 50% of the time the air quality was above 50, which isn't great for folks like myself.

And again, I should note that this was during late fall, all of winter, and early spring. Given the diminished sources of natural particulate matter (like pollen), we'd want the AQI to reflect that in a little stronger sense.

So, that's the cursory data on air quality in Quincy, IL over an (almost) 6 month period.

If you'd like to collect your own data and utilize the visualization I built, I've open-sourced it. You can fork the source code for the Dumpster Fire project if you'd like.