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Air Quality

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Outdoor air pollution, in the most extreme cases, can be immediately identified even without any special training. It casts a haze over cities, collects on streets and buildings, and provides dramatic fodder for the news. But while high drama is often a prerequisite for news about air quality to be reported, the real story is the health impacts that occur even when the air isn't thick enough to see.

Lead image from @eustatic's work

Introduction

According to the EPA, Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Most pollutants affecting indoor air quality come from sources inside buildings, although some originate outdoors. Typical pollutants of concern include combustion products such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and environmental tobacco smoke; substances of natural origin such as radon; biological agents such as molds; pesticides; lead; asbestos; ozone (from some air cleaners); and various volatile organic compounds from a variety of products and materials.

This is even more striking when the health effects attributed to outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) rank among the risk factors with the highest health impacts in the world, annually accounting for over 3.2 million premature deaths. In October 2013, the World Health Organization announced they are considering particulate matter, a major component of indoor and outdoor air pollution, as a Group 1 carcinogen along with tobacco smoke and asbestos.

For more, see this excellent overview by Toxics Action Center

Example Air Pollution Regulations in Wisconsin:

VIOLATIONS RELEVANT PROVISION
Air pollution which is defined as the presence of smoke, dust, gases, fumes in the air. The presence of these substances must also lead to injury on humans, animals or plants as well as interfere with the enjoyment of life or one's property. NR 400.02
Fugitive dust. This refers to the presence in the air of dust from sources such as open fields and piles. There will be a violation on air quality when during handling, transporting and storing of materials, the people undertaking these activities do not take precaution and some of these materials end up being released into the air. NR 415.04
Causing, allowing or permitting solid or liquid hazardous substances into the air. This includes dust, soot, pollen, smoke and liquid droplets. One can spot that violation by simply observing the ambient air. NR. 415.05
Industrial sand mines that do not take precautions to ensure dust does not escape into the air. NR 415.075

Subtopics

Title Updated Version Views Likes
Odor Logging over 1 year ago by joyofsoy 32 781 3
Introduction to Particulate Matter almost 2 years ago by stevie 90 3,062 7
Optical Monitoring of Particulate Matter almost 2 years ago by stevie 24 2,744 4
Filters almost 3 years ago by warren 11 160 2
Air Sensors about 3 years ago by warren 11 660 1
PM Tools about 3 years ago by warren 3 105 0
Particle Sensing over 3 years ago by warren 25 2,342 4
Silica Monitoring almost 4 years ago by warren 14 3,964 4
Dust Sampling almost 4 years ago by warren 4 253 1


Questions

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What causes shimmering air above flares? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 4
Where is non-compliance reported for fencline monitoring? @A_SCH over 1 year ago 1
How accurate is data on WebFire? @ajg434 over 1 year ago 3
How do you account for wind in an air study? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 2
Updated list of EPA TO methods? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 1
What are ways to monitor for oil and gas spills on private property? @stevie over 1 year ago 2
T and RH compensation for PM measurements? @subir over 1 year ago 2
Can we add a 2um filter to the bucket monitor to capture particulates? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 3
MiniVol for gas sensing? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 1
Is the Purple Air sensor an EPA-validated tool? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 4
Have you used the bucket air sampler or other grab sample tool? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 11
Have you used surveys to inform open hardware development? @kgradow1 over 1 year ago 1
Can we use a Purple Air through a VPN? @stevie over 1 year ago 4
Where can I find good low-cost air quality sensors? @mgoodwin over 1 year ago 3
Can you blur the location of a Purple Air device? @stevie over 1 year ago 2
Does anyone have experience assembling low-cost VOC kits using Adafruit’s VOC sensor? @stevie over 1 year ago 8
Are there examples where environmental concerns were addressed as a result of people filing complaints (or suspected permit violations)? @stevie almost 2 years ago 7
Do you really need a special filter to filter out ultrafine particulates in the air? @BostonFern almost 2 years ago 2
Vape detector @Ryanwest almost 2 years ago 4
What are the health impacts of the Aluf Plastics Plant from air pollution? @stevie almost 2 years ago 5
How do we keep the pressure and momentum high after a recent court ruling win? @stevie almost 2 years ago 2
What are air testing labs or companies we can recommend to our town board that our community can trust? @stevie almost 2 years ago 3
Is there a way to make a cheaper "UV Hound"? @liz about 2 years ago 11
SPS30 instead of PlanTower units? @subir about 2 years ago 4
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Activities

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Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Particle Sensor Projects

Public Lab has initiated a Particle Sensing Project focused primarily on Silica. This project overlaps with and includes the DustDuino and is coordinated on the Air-Quality Google Group.

A variety of particle sensors have been posted on the site:

Title Updated Version Views Likes
PurpleAir over 1 year ago by joyofsoy 16 3,392 2
Simple Air Sensor about 2 years ago by warren 31 1,397 4
MiniVol TAS Particulate Matter Monitor over 2 years ago by Bronwen 45 1,571 1
MACA over 3 years ago by nanocastro 4 488 5
DustDuino almost 4 years ago by warren 26 5,338 6
pDR-1500 over 4 years ago by mathew 6 749 2


Air quality projects

Title Updated Version Views Likes
Air Quality Class over 2 years ago by warren 60 247 2
Air Column Monitor almost 9 years ago by liz 10 3,758 0
Roomba indoor air quality mapping over 10 years ago by warren 1 849 2


Resources

U.S. EPA Standards and Test Methods

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Section 109 of the Clean Air Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety (primary standard) and for the protection of public welfare (secondary standard). Section 109(d)(1) of the CAA requires EPA to complete a thorough review of the NAAQS at 5-year intervals and promulgate new standards when appropriate.

Complete details of the standards, measurement principles, and data interpreation, can be found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 50

Summary of the NAAQS Criteria Pollutants

EPANAAQS.gif

EPA Test Methods

EPA approved instruments are designated as either a Federal Reference Method (FRM) or Federal Equivalent Methods (FEM). The complete list of approved instruments for NAAQS evaluating is provided on the EPA Ambient Monitoring Technology Information Center (AMTIC) web site

Real Time Data

EPA and its State and Tribal partners publish near real-time air quality data (typically hourly updates) as well air quality forecasts on the AirNow web site.

The AirNow site also contains, links to Visibility Cameras, which are yet another way to evaluate air pollution.

Examples of clear and hazy days from Boston HazeCam:

boston.jpg

Historical Data

Historical air quality test results are freely available through EPA AirData

EPA & Citizen Science Next Generation of Monitors

EPA has also been involved with Next Generation Air Measuring (link may be deprecated) and is currently offering its Citizen Science Toolbox Resources online https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox:

  • Air Sensor Guidebook;
  • Air Sensor Technology: State of the Science Presentation;
  • Mobile Sensors and Applications for Air Pollutants; and
  • Sensor Evaluation Report.

Other Resources for Air Quality Standards

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and its National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also offer a wealth of guidance. In particular, the NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods is a collection of procedures for sampling and analysis of contaminants including workplace air.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their Toxicological Profiles, is particularly useful for when a pollutant can be identified by compound or element.

Wikis

All wiki pages relating to air quality:

Title Updated Version Views Likes
Bucket Monitor over 1 year ago by kgradow1 19 93 1
Air Sampling over 1 year ago by kgradow1 23 2,468 2
Odor Logging over 1 year ago by joyofsoy 32 781 3
PurpleAir over 1 year ago by joyofsoy 16 3,392 2
Choosing a method for Particulate Matter Monitoring almost 2 years ago by stevie 21 136 0
The Sand Sentinel Program almost 2 years ago by stevie 18 1,217 2
Optical Monitoring of Particulate Matter almost 2 years ago by stevie 24 2,744 4
Orangetown Aluf almost 2 years ago by stevie 5 109 1
Air Quality about 2 years ago by liz 32 5,444 7
CAFO about 2 years ago by stevie 3 106 0
Observable air quality violations related to frac sand mining over 2 years ago by stevie 2 130 0
Roomba Indoor Air Quality Monitoring over 2 years ago by warren 49 1,139 7
Air Quality Class over 2 years ago by warren 60 247 2
Filters almost 3 years ago by warren 11 160 2
DIY Indoor Air Remediation Kit about 3 years ago by liz 52 2,331 9
PM Tools about 3 years ago by warren 3 105 0
Particle Sensing over 3 years ago by warren 25 2,342 4
MACA over 3 years ago by nanocastro 4 488 5
Filter Based Monitoring of Particulate Matter over 3 years ago by warren 9 1,350 1
DustDuino almost 4 years ago by warren 26 5,338 6
General Environmental Monitoring Study Strategies almost 4 years ago by gretchengehrke 2 403 0
Formaldehyde about 4 years ago by gretchengehrke 5 301 1
Open Air over 4 years ago by liz 17 258 5
BioBroth Bubbler over 4 years ago by warren 3 602 0