Air Quality

Air Quality

Air Quality:
MAPC Research & Projects

Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, poses a major threat to health. Much of the air pollution in Greater Boston comes from the combustion of fossil fuels used in transportation. However, they are also created by burning home heating oil, cooking at home or in restaurants, tobacco smoke, and other combustion activities. Air pollution is associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and asthma.

Risk is elevated for those living near highways and busy roads: there is conclusive evidence that this is associated with numerous illnesses and health risks.

There are ways to reduce exposure to air pollution: including air filtration systems, noise barriers, building code changes, and reducing fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

MAPC is creating resources, conducting research, and working with cities and towns on air quality issues. Below, find a list of our air quality-related projects and pages: 


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Webinar Series

Particulate Policy: Addressing Indoor Air Quality

Our home air environment is an important determinant of health. Most Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors⁠—and two-thirds of that is spent inside their home.

States and local government can advance policies and practices that reduce exposure to air pollution, and many have already begun this work.

In this webinar series, we heard from local and national experts about particle matter, a subset of air pollutants of special concern due to their small size and ability to penetrate tissues and organs.

Over two webinars, you'll learn about sources of indoor air pollution, associated health outcomes, and examples of state and local policies and programs to improve air quality.

Questions? Reach out to Senior Public Health Planner Sharon Ron at

Introduction to Air Quality

State Policy: Lessons Learned & Best Practices

Our Air Quality Work

Air purifier in cozy white bed room for filter and cleaning removing dust PM2.5 HEPA in home,for fresh air and healthy life,Air Pollution Concept

Collaborative Procurement of HEPA Air Purifiers and High-Efficiency Filtration HVAC Systems

Collective Purchasing

MAPC's municipal collaboration and public health teams are exploring a potential collective purchase for standalone HEPA air purifier units that could be deployed in rooms and residences, as well as a potential purchase of HVAC upgrades for public buildings.

NSPHC research found that HEPA purifiers reduced air pollutants and UFP concentration by roughly 55 percent. In a separate study, the use of HEPA air purifiers and air flow improvements noticeably reduced the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses. With the proven benefits, we hope to expand the use of purifiers.

If your municipality or school district is interested in participating in a potential collective procurement, or is interested in purchasing HEPA air purifiers through a potential collective contract, contact Brian Luther at

Particulate Policy Cover

Particulate Policy: An argument for a regulatory approach to transportation-related ultrafine particle exposure

Research and Communication

In the Metro Boston region, as in Massachusetts and the US, road vehicles are a major source of particle pollution. Consequently, residents living adjacent to high volume roadways are exposed to significantly increased levels of this type of pollution. States and local governments have an important role to play in advancing building design, land use practices, and transportation policies that reduce exposure to pollution. 

This report links transportation emissions to negative health effects and lays out state and local policy changes that could protect residents. 

Photo via nsub1, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo via nsub1, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Roadway Pollution in Chinatown and Somerville

Land Use Planning and Policy

Since 2017, MAPC has been working with the CAFEH (Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health) to address pollution from highways and busy roadways in Somerville and Chinatown through a National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences grant.   

CAFEH is a larger umbrella for several related air pollution studies in Somerville and other neighborhoods in and around Boston. The CAFEH partnership combines community, government, and academic resources to advance scientific understanding of how highway-generated air pollutants, including ultrafine particulates (UFP), impact the health of communities near highways.  

Our goal is to work with communities to develop protective measures in the absence of regulation of near-roadway pollutants. With CAFEH, MAPC has used Health Lens Analyses to explore community-level interventions in Somerville and Boston's Chinatown.  

Highway Traffic at Sunset

Racial Disparities in the Proximity to Vehicle Air Pollution in the MAPC Region


This 2020 MAPC analysis showed that 88 percent of residents in the region live within 150 meters of a major road and 34 percent live in the areas with high levels of vehicle pollution (the top fifth of emissions intensity values).  

But high pollution doesn’t affect all groups equally: this analysis lays out the stark difference in exposure for white Greater Boston residents and those of color.

map showing Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop

NSPHC Environmental Health Impacts Working Group

Partnership Facilitation & Research

The North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative (NSPHC) is a shared service initiative between the Town of Winthrop and cities of Chelsea and Revere. In 2019, the NSPHC completed a community assessment with strategies to address the community's health needs and formed an Environmental Health Impacts Working Group with the goal to "improve the air quality of North Suffolk and the Metro Boston region."

Through this working group, MAPC works with municipal staff, residents, and community-based organizations to engage residents and advocate for stricter air quality monitoring and mitigation.

The group has partnered with the Olin College of Engineering to draft the North Suffolk Air Quality Monitoring and Mitigation Report and hopes to publish its findings in 2021. In April 2021, the Olin College of Engineering's Air Partners Team presented their preliminary findings: