Smoke Sense Study Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Smoke Sense Study?
Smoke Sense is a citizen science study developed by EPA researchers to: 1) determine the extent to which exposure to wildland fire smoke affects health and productivity, and 2) develop health risk communication strategies that improve public health on smoke days.
What is the Smoke Sense app?
Individuals who want to contribute to science can participate in the study by using the Smoke Sense app, a publicly available mobile application. Citizen scientists can use the app to learn about wildland fires and smoke health risks in their area. They can report their health symptoms, and the range of actions they are able or willing to take to improve their health condition or lower their exposure. Users will earn badges each week they participate.
Why is EPA conducting this study?
Current air pollution health risk communication strategies have solid footing in science and are widely used across communities to protect public health. These strategies include: outreach by EPA on air quality and the Air Quality Index; public health advisories; and educational campaigns. However, it is not known whether these strategies are specifically effective in protecting public health during wildland fire smoke episodes. Exposure to wildland fire smoke can be acute and unexpected, last hours to weeks, and affect communities that may not have a public health response plan to reduce the adverse impacts of smoke exposure.
EPA is advancing the science and technology required to understand the impacts of smoke on air quality and public health. Combining science with communication tools can improve delivery and timing of information to inform decision making and health protective behaviors.
Who will be included in the Smoke Sense Study?
All individuals, above 18 years of age, who want to contribute to science can participate in the study by using the Smoke Sense app. This will be a nationwide study and the app is publicly available on the Google Play Store for Android devices and the App Store for iOS devices. Smoke Sense app user identities will be anonymous and non-identifiable.
How can users benefit from using the Smoke Sense App?
- The Smoke Sense app allows the user to log health symptoms weekly over the length of the study period. By logging these symptoms, users may get a better understanding of the impact that air quality and smoke has on their health.
- The app provides air quality information obtained from EPA’s Air Quality Index, available on AirNow.gov. This information includes the current and forecasted air quality by zip code and a map showing current fires visible from satellite and smoke plumes, giving the user valuable information about their environment.
- The app encourages engagement through Air Quality 101 module through which users can learn about air quality, impacts of air pollution on health and ways to reduce those impacts.
How long is the study period?
The pilot study for Android devices will run from August through October 31st. The pilot study for iOS devices will run from October through January 20th. After the pilot study for each device is over, the symptoms and smoke observations reporting function will be disabled but the remainder of the app will continue to be available for users. The symptoms and smoke observations reporting function will be enabled during the 2018 wildland fire season. Stay tuned for more information.
On what devices is the Smoke Sense app available?
The app is available for Android and iOS devices.
Where does the data collected from the app go?
All data received from the app is stored on a secure server and is used exclusively for the Smoke Sense study. The app will not request or store any information on user identity. This study has been reviewed and approved by University of North Carolina Institutional Review Board and EPA’s Human Research Protocol Office at the National Health and Environmental Effect Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development.
Who is using the data?
EPA researchers will use this data to better understand the impacts of wildland fire smoke on public health and to gain insight on improving health risk communication strategies. The findings from the study will be peer-reviewed for scientific publication and published on the EPA website. Individual data will not be released or published, only aggregate data in which all the data has been combined.
Will personal information be taken or shared?
The Smoke Sense app does not collect identifying information such as names, addresses, locations, email addresses, phone numbers, mobile device identifiers, etc. This study has been reviewed and approved by University of North Carolina Institutional Review Board and EPA’s Human Research Protocol Office at the National Health and Environmental Effect Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development. Individual data will not be released or published, only aggregate data in which all the data has been combined.
What are wildland fires?
Wildland fire is a general term describing wildfires and controlled fires. Wildfires are caused by lightning or other natural causes or arson that results in the burning of trees and other vegetation. Controlled fires are planned fires, which are conducted for forest or grassland ecosystem management.
Where does EPA get the air quality and wildland fire data shown in the app?
The current and forecasted air quality data and the wildland fire data provided in the app are obtained from AirNow.gov, which is generated from partnerships with several federal agencies.
What geographic region does Smoke Sense represent?
The app shows air quality and wildland fire information in the United States.
Why am I not getting weekly reminders to log my symptoms?
If a user wishes to receive a reminder every Monday to log the symptoms from the previous week, they must turn on their push notifications for this application.