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Public Lab Research note


How the Bucket Works

by kgradow1 | June 09, 2020 15:34 09 Jun 15:34 | #23802 | #23802

Adapted the Bucket Brigade Manual: Take Back Your Air!

Published by Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) in 1998

Co-authored by Karen Susag, Schuyler Fishman, Julia May, and Denny Larson


The bucket takes an air sample using a "grab" sampling technique. The bucket traps a few liters of air in a Teflon-type bag which you can then send to a lab for analysis. It's that simple.

How does the bucket take an air sample?

A bucket serves as a rugged enclosure for a standard "Tedlar" sampling bag and for the equipment needed to fill the bag with outside air. A small vacuum sucks air out of the bucket. When you open the valve attached to the sampling bag, air rushes in to fill the bag. After taking the sample, a trained person like the Bucket Brigade coordinator removes the sampling bag and sends it for analysis. The Bucket coordinator then puts in a new bag: then you are ready to take another sample.

Are the results credible?

Grab sampling is a well-established technique in the environmental monitoring industry. The US EPA has established standard techniques for taking and analyzing air samples. Industry and government agencies use this technique for many of their own air quality measurements. The bucket employs the same principles. Side-by-side testing performed by CBE and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District gave similar results. Quality assurance and quality control measures provide additional scientific information and increase the credibility of bucket samples.

Are buckets difficult to use?

The bucket design is well suited for community use. Sturdy and easy to use, buckets provide a cheaper way of obtaining the same measurements that our government agencies obtain. With reasonable accuracy, you can identify and measure gaseous air pollutants. This information will help you ask informed questions and express legitimate, documented concerns. The buckets represent sound scientific data and can contribute to a better understanding of the environmental problems in your area.


Note from @kgradow1: While Tedlar bags are still widely used for grab sampling, there are now a variety of methodologies that governments and industry use to test air quality that may not have been in wide use at the time of publication.


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