The ‘ins and outs’ of air quality monitoring!

20/02/2017
The British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently issued draft guidance on ‘Air pollution – outdoor air quality and health.’ 

Here, Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors Ltd, explains why there will need to be more funding for monitoring if the mitigation measures mentioned in the guidance are to be implemented effectively. Jim also highlights the close relationship between outdoor air quality and the (often ignored) problems with indoor air quality.

The NICE guidelines are being developed for Local Authority staff working in: transport, planning, air quality management and public health. The guidance is also relevant for staff in healthcare, employers, education professionals and the general public.

Covering road-traffic-related air pollution and its links to ill health, the guidelines aim to improve air quality and so prevent a range of health conditions and deaths. Unfortunately, on the day that the draft guideline was published, most of the national media focused on one relatively minor recommendation relating to speed bumps. ‘Where physical measures are needed to reduce speed, such as humps and bumps, ensure they are designed to minimise sharp decelerations and consequent accelerations.’ Measures to encourage ‘smooth driving’ are outlined; however, the guidelines also address a wide range of other issues, which, in combination, would help tackle urban air pollution.

Public sector transport services should implement measures to reduce emissions, but this is an area that could involve the greatest financial cost.

Many local authorities would doubtless comment that they are already implementing many of the guideline recommendations, but refer to budgetary constraints on issues that involve upfront costs. This issue was raised on BBC Radio 4 when the issue was discussed on 1st December.

AQMesh Pod

AQMesh Pod

The NICE guidelines recommend the inclusion of air quality issues in new developments to ensure that facilities such as schools, nurseries and retirement homes are located in areas where pollution levels will be low. LAs are also urged to consider ways to mitigate road-traffic-related air pollution and consider using the Community Infrastructure Levy for air quality monitoring. There are also calls for information on air quality to be made more readily available.

LAs are also being urged to consider introducing clean air zones including progressive targets to reduce pollutant levels below the EU limits, and where traffic congestion contributes to poor air quality, consideration should be given to a congestion charging zone. The guidelines also highlight the importance of monitoring to measure the effects of these initiatives.

As part of the consultation process, NICE is looking for evidence of successful measures and specifically rules out “studies which rely exclusively on modelling.”

In summary, all of the initiatives referred to in the NICE report necessitate monitoring in order to be able to measure their effectiveness. However, most LAs do not currently possess the monitoring capability to do so. This is because localised monitoring would be necessary before and after the implementation of any initiative. Such monitoring would need to be continuous, accurate and web-enabled so that air pollution can be monitored in real-time. AQMesh is therefore the ideal solution; small, lightweight, quick and easy to install, these air quality monitors are able to monitor all the main pollutants, including particulates, simultaneously, delivering accurate data wirelessly via the internet.

Whilst AQMesh ‘pods’ are very significantly lower in cost both to buy and to run than traditional reference stations, they still represent a ‘new’ cost. However any additional costs are trivial in comparison with the costs associated with the adverse health effects caused by poor air quality, as evidenced in the recent report from the Royal College of Physicians.

Inside Out or Outside In?

Fidas® Frog

Fidas® Frog

The effects of air pollution are finally becoming better known, but almost all of the publicity focuses on outdoor air pollution. In contrast, indoor air quality is rarely in the media, except following occasional cases of Carbon Monoxide poisoning or when ‘worker lethargy’ or ‘sick building syndrome’ are addressed. However, it is important to understand the relationship between outdoor air quality and indoor air quality. Air Monitors is currently involved in a number of projects in which air quality monitoring is being undertaken both outside and inside large buildings, and the results have been extremely interesting.

Poorly ventilated offices tend to suffer from increased Carbon Dioxide as the working day progresses, leading to worker lethargy. In many cases HVAC systems bring in ‘fresh’ air to address this issue, but if that fresh air is in a town or city, it is likely to be polluted – possibly from particulates if it is not sufficiently filtered and most likely from Nitrogen Dioxide. Ventilating with outdoor air from street level is most likely to bring air pollution into the office, so many inlets are located at roof level. However, data from recent studies indicate that the height of the best air quality can vary according to the weather conditions, so it is necessary to utilise a ‘smart’ system that monitors air quality at different levels outside the building, whilst also monitoring at a variety of locations inside the building. Real-time data from a smart monitoring network then informs the HVAC control system, which should have the ability to draw air from different inlets if available and to decide on ventilation rates depending on the prevailing air quality at the inlets. This allows the optimisation of the internal CO2, temperature and humidity whilst minimising the amount of external pollutants brought into the indoor space. In circumstances where the outside air may be too polluted to be used to ventilate, it can be pre-cleaned by scrubbing the pollutant gases in the air handling system before being introduced inside the building.

Fidas200The implementation of smart monitoring and control systems for buildings is now possible thanks to advances in communications and monitoring technology. AQMesh pods can be quickly and easily installed at various heights outside buildings and further units can be deployed internally; all feeding near-live data to a central control system.

Another example of indoor air quality monitoring instrumentation developing from outdoor technology is the ‘Fidas Frog,’ a new fine dust aerosol spectrometer developed by the German company Palas. The Frog is an indoor, wireless, battery-powered version of the hugely popular, TÜV and MCERTS certified Fidas 200. Both instruments provide simultaneous determination of PM fractions, particle number and particle size distribution, including the particle size ranges PM1, PM2.5, PM4, PM10 and TSP.

Evidence of outdoor air pollution contaminating indoor air can be obtained with the latest Black Carbon monitors that can distinguish between the different optical signatures of combustion sources such as diesel, biomass, and tobacco. The new microAeth® MA200 for example, is a compact, real-time, wearable (400g) Black Carbon monitor with built-in pump, flow control, data storage, and battery with onboard GPS and satellite time synchronisation. Samples are collected on an internal filter tape and wireless communications are provided for network or smartphone app integration and connection to other wireless sensors. The MA200 is able to monitor continuously for 2-3 weeks. Alternatively, with a greater battery capacity, the MA300 is able to provide 3-12 months of continuous measurements.

In summary, a complete picture of indoor air quality can be delivered by a combination of AQMesh for gases, the Palas Frog for particulates and the microAeth instruments for Black Carbon. All of these instruments are compact, battery-powered, and operate wirelessly, but most importantly, they provide both air quality data AND information on the likely source of any contamination, so that the indoor effects of outdoor pollution can be attributed correctly.

@airmonitors #Environment #PAuto @_Enviro_News


Air pollution – the invisible roadside killer.

14/12/2015

The VW emissions scandal has helped to raise awareness of the deadly threat posed by air pollution in many of our towns and cities. In the following article, Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors, an instrumentation company, explains why diesel emissions will have to be lowered and how the latest monitoring technology will be an essential part of the solution.

Background
The World Health Organisation has estimated that over 500,000 Europeans die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution – especially fine particulates from combustion processes and vehicles. Of these, around 30,000 are in Britain; however, experts believe that the figures could be substantially higher if the effects of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) are also taken into consideration.

London Smog - now less visible!

London Smog – now less visible!

Historically, air pollution was highly visible, resulting in air pollution episodes such as the Great London Smog in 1952. However, today’s air pollution is largely invisible (fine particulates and NO2 for example), so networks of sophisticated monitors are necessary.

The greatest cause for alarm is the air quality in our major towns and cities where vehicles (main diesels) emit high levels of NO2 and particulates in ‘corridors’ that do not allow rapid dispersion and dilution of the pollutants. Urban vehicles also emit more pollution than free-flowing traffic because of the continual stopping and starting that is necessary.

As a result of its failure to meet European air quality limits, the Government was taken to the UK Supreme Court in April 2015 by ClientEarth, an organisation of environmental lawyers. In a unanimous judgement against Defra (English Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Court required the urgent development of new air quality plans. In September 2015 Defra published its Draft Air Quality Plans, but they have not been well received; respondents have described them as disappointing and unambitious. CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) , an organisation representing environmental management professionals, for example, said: (the plans) “rely on unfunded clean air zones and unproven vehicle emission standards.”

Some commentators believe that Defra should follow Scotland’s lead, following the publication, in November 2015, of ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’ (CAFS). Key to this strategy is its partnership approach, which engages all stakeholders. Under CAFS, the Scottish Government will work closely with its agencies, regional transport partnerships, local authorities (transport, urban and land-use planners and environmental health), developers, employers, businesses and citizens. CAFS specifies a number of key performance indicators and places a heavy emphasis on monitoring. A National Low Emission Framework (NLEF) has been designed to enable local authorities to appraise, justify the business case for, and implement a range of, air quality improvement options related to transport (and associated land use).

Traffic-related air pollution
In addition to the fine particulates that are produced by vehicles, around 80% of NOx emissions in areas where Britain is exceeding NO2 limits are due to transport. The largest source is emissions from diesel light duty vehicles (cars and vans). Clearly, there is now enormous pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve the quality of emissions, but urgent political initiatives are necessary to address the public health crisis caused by air pollution.

A move to electric and hybrid vehicles is already underway and developments in battery technology will help improve the range and performance of these vehicles, and as they become more popular, their cost is likely to lower. The prospect of driverless vehicles also offers hope for the future; if proven successful, they will reduce the need for car ownership, especially in cities, thereby reducing the volume of pollution emitting vehicles on the roads.

Vehicle testing is moving out of the laboratory in favour of real-world driving emissions testing (RDE) which will help consumers to choose genuinely ‘clean’ vehicles. However, the ultimate test of all initiatives to reduce traffic-related air pollution is the effect that they have on the air that people breathe.

Ambient air quality monitoring
Networks of fixed air quality monitoring stations provide continual data across the UK, accessible via the Defra website and the uBreathe APP. Many believe that this network contains an insufficient number of monitoring points because measurement data has to be heavily supplemented with modelling. However, these reference monitoring stations, while delivering highly accurate and precise data, are expensive to purchase, calibrate and service. They also require a significant footprint and mains electricity, so it is often difficult or impossible to locate them in the locations of most interest – the pollution hotspots.

Public sector budgets are under pressure, so the cost of running the national monitoring network and those systems operated by Local Authorities is a constant source of debate. The challenge for technology companies is therefore to develop air quality monitors that are more flexible in the locations in which they are able to operate and less costly in doing so.

Air Monitors’s response

New technology
Air Monitors has developed a small, battery-powered, web-enabled, air quality monitor ‘AQMesh’, which can be quickly and easily mounted on any lamp post or telegraph pole at a fraction of the cost of traditional monitors. Consequently, for the first time ever, it is possible to monitor air quality effectively, where it matters most; outside schools, on the busiest streets and in the places where large numbers of people live and breathe.AQMesh_podAQMesh ‘pods’ are completely wireless, using GPRS communications to transmit data for the five main air polluting gases to ‘the cloud’ where sophisticated data management generates highly accurate readings as well as monitoring hardware performance. In addition, it is now possible to add a particulate monitor to new AQMesh pods.AQMesh does not deliver the same level of precision as reference stations, but this new technology decreases the cost of monitoring whilst radically improving the availability of monitoring data, especially in urban areas where air quality varies from street to street.The flexibility of these new monitors is already being exploited by those responsible for traffic-related pollution – helping to measure the effects of traffic management changes for example. However, this new level of air quality data will also be of great value to the public; helping them to decide where to live, which routes to take to work and which schools to send their children to.

VOC monitoring keep things on track!

14/07/2015

Award-winning geotechnical company, BAMRitchies Limited, is using an Ion Science handheld Tiger photoionisation detector (PID) for nightly monitoring of volatile organic compound (VOCs) concentrations during on-site headspace testing of contaminated soil samples on railway contracts.

SONY DSC

Supplied through Ion Science’s British distributor, Shawcity, as a replacement for one of the company’s older models, BAMRitchies chose the well-proven Tiger for its portability and long battery life between charging. As it is being used in all weather conditions and environments, the instrument’s market-leading humidity and contaminant resistant PID technology was also a key factor.

Ion Science’s Tiger is independently verified as being the best performing PID, providing the most stable, repeatable readings, when tested against competing instruments in humid and contaminated conditions.

BAMRitchies provides fully integrated ground engineering services, including ‘design and construct, for government organisations, local authorities, main contractors, utilities and public / private companies. The company’s worldwide reputation is based on innovative solutions to complex geotechnical problems with reliable delivery by a large, highly skilled and well-equipped workforce.

Stuart McQuade, Senior Geotechnical Engineer at BAMRitchies comments: “Our consultant engineers specify prompt information on contamination levels on a very regular basis making it essential that we quickly found a replacement for our old instrument which had started to fail. As we’ve used Ion Science PIDs before and found them to be good quality and reliable, we were content to go with Shawcity’s recommendation of the Tiger PID.

“Consistency of performance was a key requirement as it is being used to test approximately five to ten soil samples per night. The Tiger is in use during the most severe weather and in the harshest environments so a robust design together with humidity and contamination resistance was also very important to us. Like other Ion Science instruments, the Tiger is extremely easy to use and has proved very reliable so far.”

Providing a dynamic detection range of 1 parts per billion (ppb) to 20,000 parts per million (ppm), the Tiger offers the widest measurement range of any other VOC instrument on the market.

Ready to use, straight out of the box, the instrument requires no complex set up procedures via a PC to perform basic functions and provides the best available VOC detection and software features available.

Ion Science’s Tiger also has the fastest response time on the market of just two seconds and can be connected directly to a PC via the USB offering extremely fast data download capabilities.

It has been designed for the safe replacement of batteries in hazardous environments and is intrinsically safe (IS) – meeting ATEX, IECEx, UL and CSA standards.