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According to WHO, there are over 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution. This staggering number is demanding more attention to the global problem and encouraging an increase in air quality monitoring.

To keep up with the demand for real-time sensor-based instruments, the Aeroqual team is rapidly growing, especially in the United States. Bernadette Shahin is our new Senior Applications Manager, based in Los Angeles, California.

Love Canal
Love Canal. Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Having witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of air pollution, specifically Love Canal, instilled in Shahin a lifelong passion for finding ways to help identify and clean air. It is the reason why she believes the global ‘awakening’ around clean air is good for everybody.

“In the future I believe air monitoring is going to be a lot more densely mapped,” says the new Aeroqual Applications Manager.

“You’re going to see all kinds of air sensors and air quality monitoring stations throughout the world. You’re going to have that information at your fingertips; it’s going to be on phones – it’s going to be everywhere.”

“People are going to be a lot more aware of the potential health effects if they go outside for a bike ride. They’ll decide if it’s not such a good day to bike or hike; maybe it’s a better idea to do indoor activity. People will be able to make those decisions, which currently isn’t really the case.”

Shahin isn’t alone in her predictions. Already the shift towards greater measurement, awareness and accountability is building unparalleled momentum for Aeroqual – particularly in the United States – and one of the reasons that the air sensor company is putting more people like Shahin on the ground.

Shahin’s own experience with bad air happened while she was employed by Hooker Chemical (Division of Occidental Petroleum) – the company responsible for Love Canal – as a research and development chemist in the late 1970s.

“I saw lot of people that had serious health effects, including cancer, asthma and other diseases caused by chemicals that leached into people’s homes. It is an experience that has made me very passionate about air quality.”

Love Canal residents protesting. Source: News file

As the chemist for Hooker Chemical at the time of the Love Canal crisis, Shahin was heavily involved in environmental testing for water – NPDES-SPDES (tests required for water permitting-discharge criteria), soil and PCBs in oil. During the 1980s Shahin worked as an environmental chemist with RCRA Research at two Superfund Sites, Lehigh Electric in Lehigh Pa (the first superfund site deemed to be cleaned) and Re-solve in Dartmouth, MA.

As a chemist QA/QC, Shahin was responsible for running soil and air samples (VOCs in the air from 8-hour charcoal tubes by GC). Shahin then moved into a sales role for waste disposal and project clean-ups during the mid-1980s in New England, covering territories such as NY, PA, New England states Ohio, Virginia and New Jersey.

“Environmental conditions are changing. Most people are not aware that the ozone layer is diminishing. In addition to that you have toxic gases and priority pollutants that impact health” says Shahin.

“The air monitoring stations in California and the United States are generally quite a distance apart, which doesn’t take into account microclimates.”

“I live at the top of a hill where temperature can vary between 5 and 10 degrees between the top of the hill and the bottom. The same thing happens with air pollution. The ability to map air pollution so that it’s more densely identified will give people insights into their own microclimate.”

Shahin believes there will come a time in the very near future when people will have wearable tech that monitors air quality, among other things.

“You will be able to go biking and know when your air quality changes from one location to another. It will be wonderful for people to be able to make good decisions about where they walk, run or ride.”

“Air quality is important to me personally because I have children, and I have a grandchild. I would like for the air quality to be good and for it to be a legacy to go forward, so kids don’t have to grow up in a bubble or be kept indoors because of air quality.”

With more than 40 years of environmental experience – as a Chemist on Superfund sites, a Project Manager and Project Supervisor, an Environmental Technology Salesperson and Applications Manager – Shahin is in a great position to provide solutions that are best suited for each individual air monitoring application.

“I’m working for Aeroqual because it is a company that is making a contribution to realising a clean air future for us all. Their data is defensible and that is very important by itself.”