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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Air Monitoring Standards: Today's Air Monitoring Equipment and Methods Offer More

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jan 25, 2012 8:15:00 AM

By Bruce D. Groves, CIH

Compared with the air quality monitoring methods of even a few years ago, today’s air monitor system offers its users a quicker, more effective, and comprehensive way to assess potential environmental hazards.

2nd Ave Subway Construction Muck House - What emissions from here are impacting the Local Air Quality?
The recently published article, “ MTA: 2nd Avenue Subway Construction Not a Danger to Your Health,” responds to a rise in complaints about possible environmental health hazards from the construction. In the article, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu suggested the public faced no danger from the construction based on results from a fall 2011 Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) air monitoring study.

The PB study highlights important facts and issues about the project and makes useful points about air quality monitoring in general; however, PB used the same traditional dust and vapor monitors and methods that were used at the World Trade Center recovery site in 2001.

In the last decade and especially over the last few years, superior air monitoring technologies have been developed and used to help ensure that emission rates from major hazardous waste remediation operations in the New York metropolitan area are kept as low as possible. The use of innovative, more effective, and more cost-saving air monitoring equipment and methods would have provided data for the PB study that would better support MTA’s assertions.

Greenlight Map View of Integrated Air Monitoring Data

For example, state-of-the-art air quality monitors today use integrated, real-time environmental air sampling that measures multiple dust particle sizes while simultaneously tagging each sample to wind speed and direction—a particularly valuable approach for evaluating the impact of blasting, material (rock) loading, vehicle exhaust emissions, and other construction-related activities in densely populated urban sites where wind direction varies significantly. In addition, vapor and gas measurements, including VOCs, SO2, CO, H2S, and NH3, can now be integrated into a single database to create a visual map of the air quality and wind direction across a project area. The data are then transmitted in real time to computers, including iPads and other handheld technology, for quick response to problems.

An integrated approach also helps:

• Differentiate the sources of air contaminants so that those associated with the construction can be distinguished from those of other background sources

• Determine when emission levels from the construction/remediation activity begin rising

• Deliver immediate information to construction management so that they can make timely decisions to protect workers and the public

• Measure the efficacy of engineering controls and work practices in reducing emission rates, even when concentrations are below project or regulatory safe levels

Given the options, PB and the MTA would have found these and other meaningful enhancements in air monitoring equipment and techniques valuable to the 2nd Avenue Subway construction project.

I encourage you to learn more about state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment, including integrated systems that allow users to make evidence-based decisions to protect workers and the public.

Second Avenue Subway (SAS) Project – Air Quality Monitoring Study of Construction Activities between 69th and 87th Street on Second Avenue
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Topics: Emilcott, Air Monitoring, air quality monitoring systems, environmental health hazards, Greenlight, air monitoring equipment, MTA, monitoring air quality, health hazards, air monitoring techniques, Air Sampling, Greenlight System

The Future of Air Monitoring: Real-time Particle Size Measurement

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Dec 12, 2010 9:31:15 PM

Bruce Groves

Why do we care about particles floating around in our air? Small, inhalable particles are themselves pollutants that have shown to cause illness and chronic diseases such as asthma and certain types of lung cancer . Particles are also excellent indicators (or surrogates) for measuring other pollutants such as vapors and gases. By measuring the aerodynamic size of particles in our air, it is possible to identify and sometimes “fingerprint” them so that we can reduce or stop local sources of pollution immediately. The goal AND end result are to develop as clean a living and working area as possible.

What are we doing today?

Today, air monitoring is a piecemeal approach that is government-mandated but generally project related. When the project is over, the problem is essentially considered to be gone. Of course, in areas of high population density or industrial activity, continuous, real-time air monitoring of general conditions does not exist. Other than pollen counts, very little information about these pockets of high pollution and high particulates is available to the public or government agencies. And, the data that is available is generally much later and does not present an accurate picture of today’s problem.

What is the future in environmental air monitoring?

As technology has improved, so have particle detectors and the ease of data transmission and analysis. By 2013, small particle size detectors, such as those found in the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System, will be consistently deployed in high population areas in such cities such as NYC, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles. These particle size detectors will be coupled with wind-speed and direction detectors and web cameras to pinpoint the exact sources of particle emissions (e.g., construction or industrial equipment, idling vehicles or high traffic transportation corridors) that are creating a measurable increase in local air pollution.

This web of detector stations will form an active or “live” map of a city that continuously measures and reports the concentration of various particle sizes. The “map” will be automatically programmed to provide warning levels and alarms to reveal when and where total particle concentrations exceed warning and safe threshold levels. By locating (in real time) the place, the direction of the pollution source and supporting video evidence, private companies and government agencies can take measures to stop or reduce the indicated pollution sources. Constant real-time monitoring, assessment and action will provide continuous improvement in local air quality that will reduce the onset of disease associated with inhaling dirty air. Warning systems set up through websites will enable agencies and individuals to check on their local air pollution conditions using their computer or smart phone.

What is the first step?

At Emilcott, we have been working with particulate monitoring on job sites for over 25 years. As an extension of our field experience, we’re working on a solution that meets the needs of our clients (private companies and government agencies) -- the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System. With multiple project implementations under its belt, the Greenlight System’s particle size measurement, assessment and reporting capabilities are demonstrating how real-time monitoring is helping projects get cleaner each day – reducing the liabilities of our clients while giving them the information to keep the public and workers safe.

As the Greenlight System’s next phase of engineering development is outlined, our goal is to have a universal system that will provide comprehensive sampling in potentially high pollution areas so that neighborhood air quality can be improved and the incidence of lung disease is reduced. It will be a future watchdog for providing cleaner air locally where no such means of protecting local air quality exists today.

What do you think the future of environmental air monitoring holds? What are the benefits or challenges that you associate with monitoring and mapping pollutants in a broad geographic area?
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Topics: Emilcott, indoor air quality, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, worker safety, Occupational Health, Air Sampling, Greenlight System, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety, perimeter air monitoring

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