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Michigan company sets out to improve air quality in Grand Rapids

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Posted at 8:44 PM, Dec 29, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Your zip code can determine your air quality, and Grand Rapids is now a focus of a pilot program to learn more.

JustAir set up several reporting stations throughout the city to collect data. They want to know the reasons why one neighborhood could differ from another.

"I grew up [with] no issues, asthma, no issues of COPD, very healthy lungs; I played basketball for years at Carnegie Mellon University; no issues at all," CEO and Founder of JustAir Darren Riley said.

Riley was surprised by the healthy lungs considering his dad had asthma.

"My father actually grew up in Queens, New York, in the projects where there was a great deal of smog in the '80s," Riley told FOX 17.

After moving into southwest Detroit, he says he started seeing problems much like his dad.

"One of the most polluted zip codes in the U.S., and I developed asthma three years ago," Riley added.

Riley's mission now is to make sure people don't go through what he went through.

"So JustAir is a neighborhood-level air quality-monitoring solution," he said.

Their co-founder Jim Meeks is from Grand Rapids. Riley says his connections and the city's forward thinking about improving its air allowed them to install these monitoring stations.

So, if you see boxes attached to poles in downtown Grand Rapids, know that it's tracking the quality of the air you breathe.

"We have 11 monitors in Grand Rapids and fiber in downtown, and we have five that we're going to bring on board in the dashboard that are in the Grandville Roosevelt Park neighborhood.

According to the CDC, poor air quality can cause a wide range of health problems, including decreased lung function, increased hospital visits for asthma, and increases in premature deaths.

Riley hopes this data can impact change.

"Look at policy, environmental change and behavior change so that we can protect as individuals and hopefully move in a right direction," Riley said.

Riley says there are conversations to include these stations in Chicago and Detroit. He hopes all this data can help people plan out their day like you would for the weather.

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