The American Citizen’s Guide to Clean Air

The hottest new apocalypse preparation alternative for 2019 will not be a bunker or a gun or a lifeboat. And it’s not shifting to New Zealand. It’s a small gadget that measures the air air pollution round you.

As local weather change experiences develop into more and more dire, and as wildfires tear throughout the American West, and as belief within the federal authorities’s air high quality oversight fades, hundreds of individuals across the nation are taking air measurements into their very own arms.

Installed on a porch, a console desk or hooked to a backpack, these small, glossy and more and more cheap gadgets measure hyper-local air high quality. They are marketed to the discerning and alarmed shopper. Some have begun to self-identify as “breathers.”

Since the California wildfires in November, Mr. Dybwad said, traffic has been up 10,000 percent. In November, he moved production out of his backyard and into a new 2,200-square-foot workshop.

“You can’t give the government control over monitoring and enforcement because then you can just monitor to the extent that you want to enforce,” he said. “Having this type of power in the public’s hands, it gives a check on the government.”

Vera Kozyr, the chief executive of Atmotube, said her company sold 8,000 of its first version and is introducing a new tube in December.

“We’ve seen a huge increase of interest in the last few months, especially from the U.S.,” Ms. Kozyr said. “Awareness is just starting.”

“We didn’t imagine that our instruments would be used by consumers,” Mr. Beck said, calling the sudden new market “a revelation.”

Miles Keogh, the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, bikes around his home in Alexandria, Va., and worries a lot about what he breathes.

“What is it citizens — breathers — can do?” he said.

About two weeks ago, he strapped an air quality sensor called the Plume Labs Flow to his backpack to see how much he was exposed to along his bike rides. His fellow bike commuters are doing the same.

“My fellow bike commuters and I like to run around and say I ran into an orange spot,” Mr. Keogh said.

Many early adopters of private air quality monitors are people who are deeply familiar with the government’s pollution monitoring systems.

“I tell my friends, ‘You don’t want to know what I know,’” said Joe Lyou, who sits on the South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board. “There’s a lot of pollution.”

He installed a PurpleAir two years ago and is now gathering neighbors together to do the same.

Mr. Lyou said he is concerned the Trump administration will try to hide air quality data after it has been collected.

“I’m worried that they’ll distort or spin the data in a way so that people are confused or misled. They’ll bury it or make it confusing to understand,” Mr. Lyou said. “It’s already happening.”

And so for now, Mr. Lyou trusts the monitor in his backyard.

“I’m downwind of two power plants, a refinery and next to a freeway,” he said. “And I have a kid who’s asthmatic.”

The sensor helps Mr. Lyou decide when it’s safe for his son to play outside.

Mark Dixon, a filmmaker in Pittsburgh, started a local PurpleAir movement after feeling sick on jogs.

“I knew the air was bad because it stinks,” Mr. Dixon said. “A foul industrial stench.”

He used an app called Smell PGH that tracks industrial odors. When he started reading about air quality enforcement, he realized that some factories around the town were still polluting above the legal limit.

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