Question: What's the best material for observing dust (PM) accumulation?

stevie is asking a question about passive-pm
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by stevie | with ramseysprague May 29, 2018 16:47 | #16406

Hi all! I've had a question recently from a friend in Mobile, AL who is working with someone experiencing an increase in exposure to dust from a nearby roadway. They are interested in collecting some visual data around accumulation of dust. I know a few people on here have explored sticky pads, observed accumulation of dust on glass and other materials. Is there anything specific you would recommend they use to observe this?


This answer coming in from @wicca : Look to the side of the roads/taking photos over time and see the sand increasing over a few days. Where there is sand there is dust. Too simplistic? People need to know that where there is the sand there is the dust; the sand drops but the dust travels for miles. I would think a simple filter would work ... paper filters? Like those used in coffee makers? OR ... of course the gold standard would be set up a monitor. Question: Why would dust accumulation of a roadway be highly significant? What are they trying to prove?

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Hi good question, pinging in the contact this is coming from @ramseysprague

We've placed a PM monitor there, but the PM lasers don't catch the larger dust particles. We want to be able to demonstrate that ambient air quality in some backyards along the fenceline of this industrial aggregate distribution center and adjacent asphalt facility is dangerous. I was back there for an hour and had to evacuate twice due to the dust. We want to make a solid case for the municipal government to step in a mediate between the companies and the residents. The companies have met a few times with residents, but the problem has never been resolved. The dust is absolutely overwhelming, but the monitor we placed doesn't "see" it as well as it should.

Visually, I would hope to demonstrate that yards as close as across the street have dramatically better air quality than the yards in question.

I am thinking something along the lines of clear packing tape but am wanting to hear from folks with experience visually capturing dusty air.


Response from @wicca coming in from the midwest list: Well, take the municipal government out there to experience the experienceable. If the plant is closed during evening (municipal board hours) then set up a few board members to go in the afternoon. Talking to the companies is useless ... have the neighbors who have been impacted done anything ... attend board meetings or talked directly to the companies? Final straw ... get an attorney and file a Nuisance complaint if you have one .. or something similar. I'm probably preaching to the choir but what the heck ...

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From @jeffalk on the midwest list:: @ramseysprague You say " I was back there for an hour and had to evacuate twice due to the dust. “ What monitor are you using for what particulate size and what did it show for the hour you were referencing? If it is so visible perhaps a video would work? Or hanging out a clean laundry and showing the effect on the clothes? Larger particulate are assumed to be “less of a health hazard” and the standards for TSP (total suspended particulate) allow for large amounts. Sometimes large quantities of dust are more of a safety hazard than a health hazard, eg producing poor visibility for driving, etc. The standards are also over a 24 hour period so if excessive dust is only for a small fraction of 24 hours it will not average as high. If you want more comments please supply more detail. In solidarity, jeff falk

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@stevie has marked ramseysprague as a co-author.

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from @pat on the midwest list: 1. check out the following regarding air monitoring; A number of their findings on testing less-expensive sensors, including the Purple Air device are presented here: This sensor transmits readings in real time to an online map (

  1. Some people have been using window panes to collect dust. Use an old one, clean it up good; collect the dust and take a scraping that can be tested. It can provide some very revealing data to the eye and to the microscope.

  2. On this facebook page there are some interesting methods used to collect dust: one involves using a large thick filter with a window fan. Inexpensive method costing about $50.00. There are other ideas.

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Hi Maybe you can try this simple method or maybe some other passive method

ohh that's neat! thanks for sharing

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