Journal Articles

Publication Date



Science of The total Environment


OBJECTIVES: to examine the impact of the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire and COVID-19 on airborne particulate matter (PM) concentrations and the PM disproportionally affecting communities in Houston using low-cost sensors.

METHODS: We compared measurements from a network of low-cost sensors with a separate network of monitors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Houston metropolitan area from Mar 18, 2019, to Dec 31, 2020. Further, we examined the associations between neighborhood-level sociodemographic status and air pollution patterns by linking the low-cost sensor data to EPA environmental justice screening and mapping systems.

FINDINGS: We found increased PM levels during ITC fire and pre-COVID-19, and lower PM levels after the COVID-19 lockdown, comparable to observations from the regulatory monitors, with higher variations and a greater number of locations with high PM levels detected. In addition, the environmental justice analysis showed positive associations between higher PM levels and the percentage of minority, low-income population, and demographic index.

IMPLICATION: Our study indicates that low-cost sensors provide pollutant measures with higher spatial variations and a better ability to identify hot spots and high peak concentrations. These advantages provide critical information for disaster response and environmental justice studies.

SYNOPSIS: We used measurements from a low-cost sensor network for air pollution monitoring and environmental justice analysis to examine the impact of anthropogenic and natural disasters.


Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Environmental Justice, Environmental Monitoring, Explosions, Humans, Particulate Matter



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