Sustainability scientists Darshan Karwat of the School for the Future of Innovation in Sociaty and Jenni Vanos of the School of Sustainability were among several experts interviewed by local Phoenix National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ last month. The April 27 radio piece was titled Worse Air Quality In Phoenix Communities Of Color Could Mean Higher COVID-19 Risk.
Karwat’s research shows correlations between neighborhoods’ poverty levels, percentage of minority residents, and pollution levels. Vanos studies the influence of extreme heat, radiation, and air pollution on human health. With so many cars off the road as people stay home during the pandemic, Phoenix’s air has been much cleaner for the past few weeks, which the two see as an opportunity for shared research.
Karwat and Vanos are applying for grant funding, hoping to be able to place dozens of air quality monitors around the city while air is cleaner than usual. Then, as social-distancing orders are gradually lifted, they’d be able to track which policy changes make the biggest impact on which neighborhoods—information that could be helpful for addressing disparities in Phoenix pollution levels in the future.