Gauging the Risk of Poor Air Quality, Advocating for Change

By Dennis Archambault

Earlier this week, when I left for work, I put on a mask I used during the COVID pandemic for the first time in several months. It was an eerie reminder of those trying years. I was wearing the mask not because I was concerned about contracting the COVID virus from people I may encounter, but outdoor space. The recent period in which wildfire smoke settled in the Midwest was bad enough to be classified “very hazardous to health.”

A recent Crain’s article introduced me to the home-grown social  enterprise, JustAir Solutions, established by Darren Riley who once lived in Southwest Detroit. He knows first-hand what cumulative exposure means to the health of people who live in that area of Wayne County. He also believed there was a need to supplement existing air quality monitoring devices installed by the State of Michigan and private businesses like Marathon Petroleum, to provide residents more information so they are empowered to advocate on their own behalf.

Riley, who developed asthma while living in Southwest Detroit, formed JustAir, an air monitoring system, with a group of software developers, community organizers, and startup operators.

Riley will be a presenter at the upcoming Environmental Health Research-to-Action (EHRA) annual immersion program for high school students living in South Dearborn and Southwest Detroit, July 6-22, in Detroit. The program is designed to introduce the students to the skills of citizen science, particularly with regard to air quality. The EHRA began as a community-based research initiative and has graduated over 50 citizen scientists, some of whom have gone on to environmental health/public health careers. Authority Health was an early supporter of this program and remains active on its steering committee.

JustAir Solutions’ air quality monitors will provide key data during wildfires | Crain’s Grand Rapids Business (

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.