Clean Air Centers in Seattle, Washington

The City of Seattle, Washington is establishing five new facilities that will provide clean air for its most at-risk residents during hazardous conditions brought on by wildfires. As the climate warms, Seattle is experiencing a major uptick in the number of wildfires, and consequently more days with unhealthy air quality from particulate matter. This issue is especially significant for Seattle, as the majority of the city’s residents do not have air conditioning, and mostly open windows to circulate air from outside to cool homes. The five new facilities will be installed in neighborhoods with populations that face greater risks from air pollution, including elderly populations who cannot travel far distances to access clean air, and low-income residents who often lack access to air conditioning and air filtering systems. These facilities are designed with the goal of protecting the most vulnerable residents from unhealthy air quality due to increases in wildfires and air pollution as a result of climate change.

The West Coast has seen a large increase in wildfires due to hotter and drier conditions brought on by climate change. As a result, there have been more days with smokey, unhealthy air. These conditions particularly affect children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with heart and respiratory conditions, and low-income populations that cannot afford air conditioning or air filters to remove harmful air pollutants.

To combat this issue, Seattle is investing in five facilities, which will provide free clean air for the public. The city will retrofit recreational facilities and event spaces which have central cooling systems already in place. Sealed doors in order to prevent air leaks and air curtains will be used to prevent smoke from entering the building. Air scrubbers approved to the highest industry standards will be placed in the buildings to filter out harmful particulate matter. In order to monitor this pilot program, the city is working with a professor and students at the University of Washington, who will analyze air quality monitoring data collected inside and outside the centers.  

The clean air centers will be installed in five facilities throughout the city, including: the Rainier Beach Community Center, the S. International District/Chinatown Community Center, the Armory at Seattle Center, Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, and Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center. These areas are in highly-used spaces around the city that have high populations of particularly vulnerable residents. For example, one of the community centers is in the International District, where many residents are senior citizens who live on fixed incomes, and cannot afford their own filtration devices but face disproportionate health risks from air pollution.

Seattle’s actions have inspired a similar initiative in California, where a bill has been introduced to provide funding for similar facilities statewide. 


Publication Date: June 2019

Related Organizations:

  • City of Seattle, Washington


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