The Entanglement Technologies team spent 10 days in the field in San Antonio, Texas, using its AROMA-powered mobile laboratory to study the sources of ground-level ozone’s primary precursors.

This summer has been particularly hectic for public health investigators around the world. Their diligent efforts to trace, understand, and work on containing the unprecedented global health pandemic have taken countless hours. However, while this threat still looms large, other public health threats continue to persist that require diligence and attention as well. One such major threat to urban regions is ground-level ozone, which is where the Entanglement Technologies team comes into play.

Ozone is a colorless, highly irritating gas. When in the upper atmosphere, ozone is an extremely important blanket layer which absorbs much of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV)…

The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil under our feet — all share the legacy of chemical pollution. Many of the chemicals that have been and continue to be released can significantly impact human health and well-being. Unless we know exactly which chemicals have been released, exactly where there are, and exactly how they got there, it is enormously expensive to try to fix the problem. This is like trying to wash every dish you own every night because you can’t tell which dishes you used for dinner.

The traditional approach to understanding chemical pollution is…

The July 4th holiday weekend is peak time for families to be outside — grilling, watching fireworks and enjoy the summer. But the heat and sunshine work together to brew something dangerous in our air: toxic, ground-level ozone.

Unlike the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s harmful UV rays, ground-level ozone forms when heat and sunlight cause volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides react. These chemicals are in our atmosphere because of car exhaust, factory emissions, and even to some extent plant respiration. …

I am back on the ground with my team measuring air and water quality in the aftermath of the industrial fires that burned just outside Houston in Deer Park, Texas. We are already finding elevated levels of benzene, a toxic chemical, in the Houston Ship Channel area and are working with the Environmental Defense Fund and others to get the data quickly to local officials.

The overflowing Lumber River has flooded the Science and Technology Center in Lumberton, NC.

It’s been a year since our team drove to Houston to monitor the air quality after Hurricane Harvey, and we are back out: Another natural disaster has struck, this time in North Carolina, where Hurricane Florence last week dumped rain relentlessly, and despite the storm moving offshore, the waters continue to rise.

Working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we are testing the air, water, and soil for various contaminants. It’s been 3 days of monitoring so far, and there is both good news and bad news.

Good news: So far, we have taken samples in a number of locations…

Thick smog at Connaught Place in Delhi. Credit: Ville Miettinen from Helsinki, Finland

The air we breathe is often a mystery, and every day we breath in a lot of it: about 10,000 liters or the volume of an average above-ground swimming pool. Except in very specific situations — such as near someone smoking, an old car fuming gases, or a heavily polluted or developing urban area (like New Delhi, where airlines recently halted flights) — many of us don’t think about the chemicals that enter our bodies on a daily basis. They remain an invisible and unnoticed threat.

Recently in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, my team and I saw firsthand just a…

Purple vertical lines show chemical concentrations detected on a 3-day road trip from San Francisco to Houston. The higher the lines, the greater the concentrations. Map courtesy of Google Earth.

Heading south into Gilroy, California, on Friday morning right before Labor Day weekend, something seemed wrong: The mobile lab I was driving was measuring some of the highest levels of benzene my team and I had ever seen in the Bay area. We must have misconfigured something. Earlier that morning, I called my team in early to outfit the lab for emergency fieldwork. We had just decided late the night before to drive to Houston to monitor air quality after Hurricane Harvey. …

On the last day of our data collection in Texas last week, we were eating lunch at a Cajun-Vietnamese restaurant in Port Arthur. The restaurant was once a Burger King, whose sign had been painted over by hand. It was there we could stop to think about our morning with Hilton Kelley. A community advocate, Kelley told us story after story about residents coughing and having trouble breathing while they were trying to evacuate during Hurricane Harvey.

Our mobile lab in Houston this week testing for atmospheric pollutants in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A few weeks ago, I would have never predicted I would be in Texas all this week taking measurements out of a van, but that’s where I am. Tucked into neighborhoods that abut oil refineries and Superfund sites, I am getting one of the best emergency tests I will ever have for my company’s technology. Even more importantly, the technology is providing data to inform local governments and rapid responders on the ground. It’s been a good week.

Entanglement Tech

Entanglement makes the invisible world of chemicals accessible and actionable with rapid, precise chemical sensors.

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