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In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Shortly after the hurricane hit, more than 90 percent of the US territory lacked access to electricity. Even three months later, half of the island still did not have power, and power outages were frequent, forcing many people to rely on power generators. In a recent study, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (UPR-RP) researchers showed that these generators increased air pollution in the San Juan Metro Area.
To power the generators after the hurricane, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Puerto Rico a waiver from ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) requirements until mid-November 2017 and allowed Puerto Rico to use diesel fuel with higher sulfur content until they depleted the existing stocks. The EPA prohibits diesel fuel with higher sulfur content because the fuel is strongly correlated with emissions of fine particulate matter (PM)–a known carcinogen. The widespread use of non-ULSD fuel can also increase concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is a precursor to PM that causes migraines and reduces hearth health.
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In addition to taking out much of the island's electricity, Hurricane Maria also damaged Puerto Rico's existing air monitoring network and no air quality data was collected for the first two months following hurricane impact. Certain reports attribute thousands of additional deaths after hurricane impact to Hurricane Maria, and some of those deaths may have been due to hurricane response-related air quality degradation.
Carnegie Mellon and UPR-RP researchers started monitoring Puerto Rico's air quality in late November 2017. To monitor air quality in Puerto Rico, the researchers deployed four lower-cost Real-time...
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