Air quality is an important issue, especially in highly regulated industries such as coal mining, cement processing, and coal‐ and oil‐fired power generation. Rules such the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Standards are designed to protect the public and keep ambient air pollution-free. Ozone is another pollutant of ambient air that has been linked to global warming and health risks for children. The 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone addresses primary and secondary ozone standard levels.
What do we mean by ambient air?
Safeopedia explains that ambient air is atmospheric air in its natural state, not contaminated by air-borne pollutants.Ambient air is typically 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The extra 1% is made up of a combination of carbon, helium, methane, argon and hydrogen. The closer the air is to sea level, the higher the percentage of oxygen. Manufacturing processes and the burning of fossil fuels has directly impacted ambient air quality by releasing a high level of industrial and chemical pollutants into the atmosphere.
What is ambient air pollution?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ambient air pollution as potentially harmful pollutants emitted by industries, households, cars, and trucks. Of all of these pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health. Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion from vehicles, power plants, industry, households, or biomass burning. WHO estimates fine particulate matter causes 25% of lung cancer deaths, 8% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths, and 15% of ischaemic heart disease and stroke.
Advanced technology is available to monitor particulates in ambient air. These instruments measure critical regulatory parameters including PM-10 and PM-2.5 mass concentration as it exists in ambient air. Monitoring for aerosols and dust within a designated area, whether for research or routine input, can include various industry-proven particulate matter technologies, such as gravimetric sampling, light scattering, beta attenuation, and inertial weighing TEOM technologies.
Portable and personal instruments are also available to monitor ambient air in the workplace to help detect the presence of toxic vapors and gases. Without such equipment, respirable particles can settle deep in the lungs, resulting in serious health and respiratory problems, such as decreased lung function, asthma, irregular heartbeat, Black Lung Disease and chronic bronchitis.
According to the U.S. EPA, there are many reasons why ambient air monitoring is needed:
- Provide air pollution data to the general public in a timely manner;
- Support implementation of air quality goals or standards;
- Evaluate the effectiveness of emissions control strategies;
- Provide information on air quality trends;
- Provide data for the evaluation of air quality models; and
- Support research (e.g., long-term studies of the health effects of air pollution).
Read the related blog post, What Is Particulate Matter? to learn about air quality issues resulting from industrial activities such as coal‐ and oil‐fired power generation.
Visit the Air Quality Analysis Information page to learn more about global air quality regulations as well as technologies and equipment for measuring pollutants in the air.