STOCKTON, Calif. — An Earth Day partnership between Edison High School in south Stockton and UC Berkeley is hoping to make the city cleaner one air purifier at a time.
Over the course of two hours on April 16, students at Stockton's Edison High School crafted 108 air purifiers with help from UC Berkeley engineering students.
"We got together with them, they had the units delivered here. About 25 Berkeley students teamed up with about 25 Edison students," said Edison High School chemistry teacher Doug Stelzer. "The students were able to take (the air purifiers) home as they wanted if they needed them or knew somebody that could benefit from them. And the rest of them will be distributed on Earth Day at Victory Park through the environmental justice project."
Supplies for the one-day event, which included fans, cardboard, rubber bands and MERV 13 filter were funded by Assembly Bill 617, a law passed in 2017 meant to lessen the inequality of air pollution in cities across the state.
In 2019, a 16-mile stretch of southwest Stockton was awarded funding for AB617 projects after research showed the area was among the top 5% of most disadvantaged communities in California. According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the area of south Stockton ranked as having the highest particulate matter pollution compared to all other disadvantaged communities in the north portion of the district's coverage area.
"We're hit with a lot of things," said Jonathan Pruitt, coordinator of the Environmental Justice Program at Catholic Charities. "We have outside sources from those that are coming from traffic. We have the Bay Area, and then we also have the Port of Stockton, the Crosstown freeways and the warehouses."
AB 617 funding awarded to Stockton goes towards events like the one at Edison, which coordinators hope will become more frequent.
"AB 617 is more than $30 million, that's going to south Stockton," said Stockton City Councilwoman and Edison High School teacher Christina Fugazi. "There are other measures, clean buses, zero-emission buses, things of that nature, that all of south Stockton will benefit from."
While some students opted to take their air purifiers home, others are donating their work in hopes of helping Stockton residents.
"It's very useful for people who have very strong asthma, people that can't breathe regularly," Raphael Alvarez, an Edison High School chemistry student, said. "There's people that are trying to sell these, but they're overpricing and making them quite expensive for no reason, when we could just give it out for free."
Students and teachers plan to attend Stockton's Earth Day Festival Sunday where they hope to distribute the purifiers. The Earth Day Festival is being held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Victory Park in Stockton
For some Edison High School students, the project has driven home an important lesson about air pollution and about innovation.
"It's so it's amazing, because there's a lot of people that have those difficulties, and they don't know what to do about it," Alvarez said. "It's just a very useful thing to use."
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