Recently, the Prime Minister’s car was covered by a thin layer of Saharan dust and air quality was suddenly a lead item in the national news. The dust itself does not pose a serious hazard to health in comparison with the finer particles (from diesel engines for example) that travel deep into the lungs, but Jim Mills, MD of Air Monitors, believes that the media attention that this event inspired should have a positive effect on the UK’s strategy for improving air quality: “This recent pollution episode demonstrates that people need to be able to see pollution before they become interested in it,” he says.
Just a few days prior to the Saharan invasion, the World Health Organisation reported that ‘in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.’ This extraordinary and alarming statistic barely made the headlines, so why is that?
In the 1950s thick smogs meant that air pollution was highly visible to the public and politicians, whereas today, ‘out of sight and out of mind’ is an apt description of political attitude to air quality.
The problem with solving urban air quality problems is that death certificates never say ‘Died from air pollution’ so the statistics that show 29,000 premature UK deaths (as a result of air pollution) pass largely unnoticed because the ‘cause of death’ is usually a heart attack, a stroke or some other cardiovascular ailment. The fact that this figure exceeds those for obesity, alcohol and road traffic accidents is largely ignored.
Jim believes that the problem needs to be made visible: “People need to know what the air quality is, but that information needs to useful – in other words, knowing that air pollution is bad in London today doesn’t really help. Londoners won’t decide to work in Sussex today as a result!
“Air quality data needs to be more spatially specific; people need to know which streets are particularly bad so that they can make decisions accordingly; such as choosing a route to work or selecting a school in an area with cleaner air.
“Greater detail and higher visibility of air quality data will also help to motivate politicians to implement measures to improve air quality.”
So, the answer is to find a way to improve the detail and visibility of data and Jim says this has been the focus of his company Air Monitors in recent years: “We have developed a bolt-on capability (AQWeb) for monitoring stations that utilises the latest communications technology and the ‘Cloud’ to make live data available via the Internet. In addition, working with the company Geotech, we have launched AQMesh, a revolutionary technology that dramatically reduces the cost and footprint of monitoring equipment so that air quality can be measured anywhere, and live data viewed at anytime from anywhere.”
In summary, it is unfortunate that media noise following the appearance of dust on the Prime Minister’s car raised concern about particles that were not the main culprit in the deaths that result from air pollution. However, it is encouraging that this event served to raise the profile of a critically important issue and that technology has been developed to provide air quality data that will be useful.
Peter Lawson, formerly at Casella Monitor (Monitor Europe) joins Air Monitors team as Regional Sales Manager (Scotland). Peter has many years experience in the air quality monitoring industry and will be a valuable addition to the existing Air Monitors sales team.
Peter joined ETI, a company formed by our managing director Jim Mills, back in 1992 and worked with the company until he transferred to Monitor Europe, again formed by Jim Mills in 1998. Both ETI and Monitor Europe were sold to Casella Group in 2000 and Peter stayed on managing international sales until recently.
Air Monitors was formed in 2002 by Jim, who was later joined by six other staff who has previously worked at Casella/Monitor Europe so Peter will feel right at home amongst past friends and colleagues.
The project, called Spirit in the Air: CO2 Edenburgh, aims to fuel debate on how art can change the political and social climate and how the arts sector can cut its own greenhouse gas emissions.
It is led by renowned international environmental artists Tim Collins, Reiko Goto and Chris Malcolm who will use Scottish technology to measure how much CO2 is generated as audiences pack into theatres and galleries and traffic clogs the city’s streets during the Festival period.
Festival-goers will encounter two uniformed “Carbon Catchers” roving the Scottish capital with state-of the-art detectors to find carbon hotspots. Monitoring stations will be set up in venues such as The Lyceum and the National Galleries and parks like Princes Street Gardens and Arthur’s Seat.
Spirit in the Air: CO2 Edenburgh will be based at the Tent Gallery, in Edinburgh College of Art, where the artists will gather real-time data streaming in from across the city to their studio-lab. Mini computers will use LED displays and sound synthesis to express the data and reveal how it changes through the days and weeks.
Glasgow-based Gas Sensing Solutions is providing Spirit in the Air: CO2 Edenburgh with its revolutionary CO2 detectors which use solid state technology to make them small, efficient portable and ultra low-energy.
Envirologger Ltd, with offices in Tewkesbury and design and manufacturing in Dundee and Cumbernauld, is supplying the wireless data collection and management system which allows the artists to simultaneously receive data in real-time from the sensors across the city.
Ben Twist, Director of Creative Carbon Scotland which is co-producing Spirit in the Air, said: “It’s tremendous to see Scotland’s arts, science and technology sectors taking a lead by coming together at the Edinburgh Festival to vividly demonstrate how human behaviour is damaging the environment.
“Spirit in the Air is only possible because of the advanced technology available from Gas Sensing Solutions and Envirologger. Companies like these are transforming our ability to monitor CO2 emissions.
“The festival is a superb opportunity to encourage debate on how artists, arts organisations and the public can reduce their emissions and make a more sustainable Scotland. It’s also a chance to discuss the ways in which the arts and science can collaborate to take messages about climate change to a wider audience.”
CO2 monitoring might also have benefits for performers and venues which wonder why audiences sometimes doze off even during the best quality shows.
Alan Henderson, Director of Glasgow-based Gas Sensing Solutions which is providing Spirit in the Air with its revolutionary new portable CO2 detectors, said: “This is an excellent project and shows how technology companies can work with the arts to combat climate change.
“There are other potential benefits too. When audiences start to yawn and nod off, it’s not that they are bored, but because the CO2 levels are too high. If theatres monitor the levels they can stop it happening – and they can also save around 25% on their energy bills, which is good for the environment and saves money.”
Tiredness brought on by high CO2 levels can be a problem in offices, classrooms, lecture theatres and even cars. Connecting the monitors to on-demand ventilation systems can keep people mentally alert, reduce heating bills and thereby reduce emissions.
A major challenge for the project is to get the data to the Tent Gallery in real-time from all over the city. This has been solved using Envirologger’s wireless technology. Each sensor will be connected to an Envirologger wireless node which, in this application, will transmit the data via licence-free radio to a central gateway/transceiver that will feed the data to a ‘cloud’ server which, in turn, will transmit live CO2 readings to the environmental artists.
Jim Mills, Managing Director of Envirologger and Air Monitors, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project because it will help to raise awareness about both indoor and outdoor air quality.
“The Envirologger technology was developed to radically improve the availability and accessibility of monitoring data. All of our customers have one thing in common – they need quick, low cost, easy access to their data. For many, this means a web page on their PC, iPad or Smartphone, but in this project it will be music to the ears of Fringe visitors.”
Both companies are supplying equipment to Spirit in the Air for free.
The artists believe that partnerships with science and technology provide a powerful way to show people how their behaviour raises CO2 levels.
Tim said: “Art can start debate and this is what we aim to do by using the latest scientific tools to reveal the source and form of CO2. We will be trying to see the environment, and present it to people, in a new way – like one of the early experiments by the Impressionists and Futurists.”
Spirit in the Air is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. It opens on 2 August and takes place daily from noon to 5pm at the Tent Gallery on Westport, Edinburgh EH3 9DF.
Following the successful completion of a series of rigorous field trials in both the UK and Germany, Air Monitors is delighted to announce that the latest TEOM FDMS instruments have met the MCERTS performance standards and the EU Equivalence designation criteria (Defra approval) for continuous ambient air quality monitoring for both PM2.5 and PM10.
Commenting on the announcement, Air Monitors MD Jim Mills said: “This is great news for ambient air quality monitoring in the UK because the
1405-F provides the benefits of TEOM technology with the advantage of the added measurement of volatile and semi-volatile species by FDMS – data which is essential for an understanding of the nature and source of PM pollution, which in turn is important to inform control and improvement measures.”
DEFRA are the only authority able to designate a monitor for regulatory monitoring in the UK and recently the requirements for this approval became more stringent with the introduction of a ‘UK specific pollution climate’ that has to be applied to the test data. The TEOM FDMS is the only type of PM monitor to have passed these new criteria and without the need for any correction factors.
The existing TEOM FDMS models (1400 series) used in the AURN and in many local authority sites also continue to enjoy full equivalence designation and if maintained correctly will continue to offer good service for years to come. However those considering replacement or buying new monitoring equipment now have the ability to choose these new models (1405 series) with the highest level of MCERTS certification and EU Equivalence designation of any PM monitor on the market.
For those that need to measure both fine and coarse particulates simultaneously, a dichotomous format version of the 1405 is available (1405-DF) for continuous monitoring of both PM2.5 and PM10. This provides a substantial cost reduction, power usage and space requirement in comparison with two individual instruments.
A key feature of the new design for the 1405-F and 1405-DF is that the control unit, the sensor and the FDMS are all built into the same box, which means that the unit is smaller and more cost-effective.
As the UK seeks to reduce the quantity of waste going to landfill, there has been a growth in demand for composting, particularly to accommodate ‘green bin’ waste. In addition there has been an increase in the variety of wastes that are being composted, so it is important to be able to understand the emissions from these processes in order to minimise any impact on the environment and human health.
Micro-organisms are necessary for the composting process, so they will always be present in large quantities within the bulk material. Any handling process, such as moving, sorting or turning, is likely to create airborne dust that will contain micro-organisms, and studies have shown that exposure to the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus can trigger asthma, bronchitis and allergic responses, so workers and residents near composting sites are potentially at risk.
Traditional bioaerosol sampling techniques rely on the impaction of particles on a solid agar medium. However, these methods can be time-consuming and are limited by low flow rates and unreliable impaction. They are also restricted to particles that can be cultivated. In contrast, the wet walled cyclonic technology employed by the Coriolis instruments, rapidly collects biological particles in liquid at a high flow rate with validated efficiency, and the liquid containing the particles is compatible with a number of rapid microbiological analysis methods, including qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction), which enables the quantification and qualification of most targets.
Studies at NPL
The objective of the initial work was to improve the accuracy and speed of traditional measurement techniques, and one of the conclusions of the project was that the wet walled cyclonic technology employed by the Coriolis, gave the best performance for quantifying biological species such as fungi and bacteria, when used in conjunction with qPCR. Some of the experimental work was carried out at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to quantify the efficiency of sampling and analysis methods for the measurement of airborne Aspergillus fumigatus spores. This work demonstrated good correlation between Coriolis/qPCR and the HPA’s ‘standard’ method for these measurements.
As a result of the initial work, NPL now offers an Aspergillus fumigatus bioaerosol monitoring service to quantify airborne spore levels at composting sites using a rapid qPCR technique. The key advantages of this monitoring service over traditional microbiological methods are:
1. Short sampling times
2. Rapid analysis
3. High sensitivity and broad detection range
4. Species specific
5. Detects total spore count (viable and non-viable), which overcomes any issue of emission underestimation as a result of damage to the spores during collection
6. Aids differentiation between background spore levels and site specific emission
A full report in the early work has now been published on the Defra website, and further studies have been commissioned. The most recent studies have involved bioaerosol sampling with the Coriolis sampler at four different sites, every quarter during 2012. NPL’s David Butterfield says “The objective of the latest trial was to assess the sampling and monitoring technologies in greater detail, under differing weather conditions and with different sources.”
At the same time, a working group at CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation, is working on a new bioaerosol monitoring standard that is likely to accommodate the latest technology and will necessitate demonstration of equivalence.
Looking forward, Jim Mills from Air Monitors, the company which launched the Coriolis in the UK, says “It will take some time before this new technology becomes standard practice, but in the meantime, with the benefit of the work that has been conducted by NPL and others, there is no reason why Coriolis should not be utilised widely to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of bioaerosol sampling at composting sites, and in many other applications such as hospitals, legionella investigations, cooling towers, animal housing and pharmaceutical manufacture.”
Air Monitors has launched a new division to cater specifically for the air monitoring requirements of the food industry. Sales Manager Colin Craggs says “This initiative has been taken in response to a recent rise in enquiries from the food and beverage markets, combined with advances in measurement technology.”
The new division will focus on four areas: dust in the workplace, bioaerosol hazards, gas mixers/blenders and packaging gas.
A range of leading dust monitors has been assembled to cover every application. Portable particulate monitors enable occupational safety managers and consultants to conduct accurate surveys in order to assess the levels of risk and to identify potentially dangerous areas, and fixed monitors help to ensure the protection of staff and visitors in those areas of greatest risk.
Air Monitors recently launched a new advanced technology for the sampling of bioaerosols and Colin says “The Coriolis µ is a very important technology for the food sector because airborne biological hazards are a particular concern for workers in many processing plants.”
The Coriolis µ has a new wet-walled cyclone technology that improves bioaerosol sampling for bacteria, pollen, endotoxins, viruses and fungal spores. Traditional techniques rely on the impact of biological particles on a solid growth medium, but the Coriolis µ collects the particles in a liquid at a high flow rate (300 l/m) with validated efficiency that surpasses traditional methods. Importantly, the liquid containing the particles is compatible with a number of the latest rapid microbiological analysis methods.
The third group of instruments includes a range of highly accurate gas blenders and mixers which are designed for modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) applications. It is common for MAP to contain two or three gases or more, so the major advantage of these gas mixers is the cost saving from pure gases in comparison with premixed cylinders. However, these systems also provide gas mixtures with greater accuracy and repeatability.
The accuracy of gas concentrations is further protected by a range of gas analysers for non-invasive oxygen measurement and permeation testing.
Summarising Colin says: “In addition to the applications described above, we also offer gas detection equipment for confined space, toxic gases, combustibles, oxygen depletion etc. So, as a result of this initiative, we hope to become a one-stop-shop for air quality products in the food and beverage sector.”
Air Monitors Ltd, the specialist provider of air quality monitoring equipment and services, has been appointed UK distributor for Environics, the US-based manufacturer of gas mixers, gas dilution and calibration systems.
“This is great news for our customers,” says Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors. “The Environics products are renowned around the world for quality, accuracy and reliability, which is vitally important because good quality calibration is key to the delivery of good quality data from gas detection and monitoring systems.”
Environics gas mixing and dilution technology is based on very precise control of thermal mass flow controllers, which normally offer an accuracy of +/- 1% of full-scale flow. However, when combined with Environics technology, this is improved to +/- 1% of setpoint, which can produce a 10-fold improvement in accuracy and as a result, these systems exceed the US EPA requirements for ambient calibrators.
For further information on the Environics products click here
Globally, fine dust particles have been the focus of much greater attention in recent months as their role in deaths related to poor air quality becomes better understood. However, knowledge of the relationship between airborne particles and health effects is limited by the information that can be obtained by monitoring technologies.
Jim Mills, a particulate monitoring specialist from Air Monitors Ltd, believes that ambient dust monitoring technology has taken a major step forward with the development of a new Fine Dust Analysis System (FIDAS) which offers additional information on both particle size distribution from 0.18 – 30 microns and on particle number in each size range. It also provides continuous real-time simultaneous mass concentration measurements of TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10. As such, Jim says “FIDAS will complement existing PM monitoring technology such as the TEOM FDMS, which is a standard method in many countries.”
The FIDAS instrument employs a white light LED light scatter method which will be particularly attractive to the managers of monitoring networks because it does not require consumables or mains power, and does not need to be housed in an air-conditioned housing.
Instrumentation specialist Air Monitors Ltd received a £1,000 cheque at AQE 2013 (the Air Quality and Emissions Show) for attracting the highest number of visitor registrations to this year’s event at the Telford International Centre.
Following the presentation, exhibition organiser Marcus Pattison said: “AQE 2013 was a phenomenal success, attracting three times the number of visitors than the previous event in 2011, so we are extremely grateful to all of the speakers, exhibitors, attendees and organisational staff that helped make this event such a success.
“Air Monitors made a tremendous contribution to the advance publicity, so I am naturally delighted to present this cheque in recognition of their outstanding efforts.”
Accepting the cheque on behalf of Air Monitors, Jim Mills said: “We were naturally delighted to win the competition, but for us, the greatest reward was the success of the event – our workshops were full to bursting and our stand was extremely busy throughout.
“We launched two new technologies at AQE 2013, both of which generated enormous interest. The new ambient air monitoring system, AQMesh, looks set to revolutionise the way air quality is monitored, and the FIDAS particulates monitor will provide much greater insight into the pollutant that is responsible for the most premature deaths.”
Plans are already under way for the next AQE, which will take place 22-23rd April 2015.
Jim Mills receives cheque from AQE organiser Marcus Pattison
As many countries fail to meet air quality targets and large numbers of premature deaths are still the result from air pollution, Air Monitors Managing Director Jim Mills explains in the December issue of International Environmental Technology (IET) why 2013 should be a pivotal year for air quality.
Two weeks ago marked the 60 year anniversary of the 1952 Great Smog. The IET article is therefore timely, but demonstrates that, whilst there has been an improvement in air quality, 2013 will be a vital year in dealing with the important issues that remain.