Cleaning up air pollution
Jun 23 2022
Environmental Technology speaks to industry expert Tim Turney from Casella, a leading manufacturer of air monitoring equipment, about reducing site emissions to tackle air pollution
How dangerous is air pollution?
Air pollution is the leading cause of environment-related deaths worldwide, estimated to result in seven million premature deaths—4.3 million from outdoor air pollution and 2.6 million from indoor pollution. It is now recognised that negative health impacts kick in at much lower levels than previously thought, and almost the entire world (99%) is breathing polluted air that exceeds internationally approved limits.1 The most dangerous pollutant for human health is fine particulate matter (PM2.5), produced by vehicles, wood burning, industry and farming.
In March 2022, the UK Government proposed to set air quality limits that would reduce levels of PM2.5 to 10 micrograms per cubic metre by 2040, representing a 35% reduction in population exposure, compared to 2018 levels. However, the targets fail to meet the PM2.5 concentrations recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), resulting in criticism from industry campaigners that the Government is not going far enough to tackle air pollution.
What do the proposed targets mean for industry?
As the air quality targets continue to undergo review, industry must be prepared to assess and actively reduce site emissions. The misalignment with WHO recommendations and widespread criticism from campaigners means companies should pre-empt the possibility of needing to go above and beyond the proposed targets.
Currently, PM2.5, which includes soot and dust, is widely spread by industry. According to the 2019 Lord Mayor’s report, construction alone is responsible for 15% of all London’s particulates. The common denominator is a combination of high population density and the sheer intensity of construction and demolition activity, which is synonymous with dust. However, advances in air quality monitoring technology can help achieve the early detection of air contaminants, allowing businesses to reduce exposure for their workforce and surrounding communities.
How can air monitoring technology cut harmful exposure?
Air pollution measurement instruments serve multiple purposes: publishing dust information online to update the public and issuing cautionary statements if required. Having this data in real-time can ensure that the right people act when increased levels are reported and control measures can be put in place and continuously evaluated.
Environmental monitoring and protecting against potentially dangerous conditions can be difficult to manage without reliable data streams and monitoring of a site perimeter that gathers environmental data. For this reason, more and more companies are turning to boundary monitoring technology to measure the level of risk and make sure they adhere to environmental limits and guidelines, while also protecting against health hazards.
What is boundary monitoring?
Boundary monitoring refers to the use of dedicated systems that monitor dust as well as noise and vibration, and for short-term detection of harmful contaminants in the soil around a worksite, to ensure that companies are complying with all applicable limits at work. Boundary monitoring systems are typically deployed across construction and demolition projects, environmental remediation sites, mining and quarrying, waste transfer, heavy road traffic and other places where compliance-related monitoring is required.
Perimeter air monitoring is an important component of a construction worksite, helping companies to remain compliant with control measures required for them to carry out the project, paramount as new air quality targets are anticipated to come into force.
Boundary monitoring could help protect the reputation and revenues of construction companies and other industrial firms. If complaints arise, responsible companies using boundary monitoring have proof points to show they have been diligent with their monitoring in operations and abiding by operational requirements. Data evidence from a boundary monitoring system is also helpful if a worksite is accused of issues caused by another operation, allowing site managers to respond rapidly, minimising reputational damage.
How long should businesses carry out air quality monitoring?
Air quality monitoring solutions such as Casella’s Guardian2 require little upkeep or maintenance while continually measuring conditions on or around a worksite and are designed for easy setup and use. If possible, baseline conditions should be established by testing before the start of operations and continued throughout the operation to observe site emissions and ensure compliance with planning conditions. The duration of monitoring should be sufficient to take weather conditions and seasonality into account, as well as the effects of remedial measures.
Companies operating in fast-changing environments can also use a hand-held particulate monitor such as the Casella Microdust Pro to instantly detect dangerous concentrations of airborne particles during spot checks and walk-through surveys. Short-term dust monitoring is often used to quantify an existing problem and is suitable for identifying areas, or specific equipment on a site responsible for excessive dust generation.
As safety and environmental regulations have grown much tighter globally, it is becoming more important for employers to ensure they have adequate means to test the dust pollution levels in their workplaces to ensure the safety of their workers and surrounding communities. Having access to real-time, near-reference data can help achieve this and keep more people safe.
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