Investigating Air Quality and Communications in Oakridge Oregon
The City of Oakridge and community stakeholders have worked together over the past two decades to improve air quality and meet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PM2.5 threshold. Oakridge has historically been ranked among the top 20 communities in the United States with the worst air quality due to high concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) from home wood heating (wood stove) and wildfire smoke. Due to the steep topography of the area and Oakridge’s location in a basin-shaped valley bottom, the community is prone to atmospheric inversions that trap seasonal wildfire smoke and wintertime home heating woodsmoke in the community. In 2019, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency obtained funding from the EPA to launch the Oakridge Air project.
With additional funding in 2022, Oakridge Air partnered with an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Oregon to help inform on the effectiveness of the program elements, outreach, and communications aimed at increasing awareness, sharing resources, and shifting public perceptions about air quality and smoke in the community. Led by EWP, the UO research team also includes partners in UO’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement and the School of Journalism and Communications.
UO research consists of two components:
Examining: Local air quality data and analyses the effectiveness of Oakridge Air’s programs to improve community air quality, e.g. distribution of air purifiers and installation of home heating upgrades.
Data collection: PM2.5 air quality data through the distribution of outdoor and indoor air sensors throughout the community.
Research questions: how indoor and outdoor air quality differ over time and during periods of reduced air quality. It will also track air quality within homes that have received home heating upgrades or who have received portable air purifiers
Examining: communication practices and lived experiences of Oakridge residents.
Data collection: content analysis, participant observation, interviews
Research questions: how Oakridge residents’ concerns and views about air quality and air quality communications and how those views relate to their knowledge about and willingness to take actions to protect themselves and their families from the harms that smoke can cause.
See our recent reports on key informant interviews conducted in Spring 2022: