In response to growing demand and a changing market, Air Monitors Limited, a leading provider of air quality monitoring equipment and related services, has invested in a new fleet of state-of-the-art vehicles.
Service Manager Nigel Grey says: “Our service work has changed enormously in recent years and it is vitally important that we adapt accordingly, ensuring that all of our engineers are equipped with the latest technology so that they can provide the highest levels of service.”
Air Monitors services a high proportion of the UK’s air quality monitoring networks, and published data capture rates demonstrate that the company is able to offer the highest levels of service available. However, many of Air Monitors’ customers now employ cloud-based data collection so that they are able to view air quality data in almost real-time. This facility has radically changed Air Monitors’ service capability: “Instead of responding to customer calls when they find that an instrument is down or damaged, we now continuously monitor the performance of all of our customers’ online monitors,” adds Nigel. “As a result, we are often able to detect issues before they become a problem, and despatch an engineer much sooner - most problems are fixed before the customer knows they have one!”
To support the new pro-active service capability, the new Air Monitors vans are equipped with all of the latest service, calibration and communication technology, coupled with a comprehensive suite of spares and consumables.
The Environment Agency of the Faroe Islands together with the municipality of Tórshavn has installed two ambient air quality monitoring stations as part of its commitment to monitor the environment and provide air quality data to the public and other interested parties. The stations, which were supplied by Air Monitors Ltd, provide continuous meteorological measurements and air quality data for NO2, NOx and a range of different particulate factions.
Rakul Mortensen, an Environmental Chemist for the Agency, is responsible for air quality monitoring. She says: “Air quality measurements have been made in the past, but only on a short-term basis by researchers and consultants, so we are absolutely delighted to be able to conduct our own continuous monitoring, so that we can establish a database of background air quality data.
“The creation of two sites, one urban and one rural, will enable us to determine whether any pollution incidents have arisen from local sources or externally. For example, we received a significant quantity of dust following the volcanic eruptions that took place in Iceland in 2010 and this equipment will enable us to measure any future instances with greater accuracy, so that we can provide the public with informed advice and reassurance."
One of the stations was installed in a remote rural location and the other was installed in Tórshavn in the main urban area near the harbour, which is the area most likely to be affected by local sources of pollution.
The Faroe Islands is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark but are not part of the European Union so it does not have to comply with EU Air Quality Directives. However, the Environment Agency is keen to be able to provide the Islands’ 50,000 population with information on air quality. Rakul says: “The main factors affecting air quality are likely to be road traffic and emissions from the large number of ships that travel to and from the Islands’ ports. However, the monitoring stations have already demonstrated that air quality in the Faroes is generally good, and well within the requirements of the EU air quality standards."
Each of the two monitoring stations included a Thermo Gas analyser Model 42i measuring NO, NO2 and NOx in addition to a Lufft WS600 smart weather sensor for measuring wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, pressure and precipitation. Particulate monitoring is being undertaken with the most advanced technology available; each station has been equipped with a FIDAS, (Fine Dust Analysis System) which provides continuous real-time simultaneous mass concentration measurements of TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 and TSP providing additional information on particle size distribution from 0.18 to 18 microns and particle number in each size range. All of the monitoring equipment is connected to web loggers manufactured by Envirologger, Air Monitors' sister company.
Jim Mills, Air Monitors' MD, travelled to the Faroe Islands in March 2014 to assist with the installation of the monitoring stations. He said: "The monitors are similar to many of the stations that we have installed in the UK; they are fitted with web loggers that utilise 'cloud' storage for the data and our software engineers are working with the Environment Agency of the Faroe Islands to develop a website so that the public will have quick and easy access to air quality data."
Vivienne Westwood and Duffy joined a crowd of cyclists on the ‘Cleaner Air Bike Ride’ that took place during the Urban Outdoor Festival in Camden on Saturday 5th July. The event was designed to raise awareness of several environmental issues including climate change, air quality and the benefits of cycling rather than petrol/diesel transport.
Singer-songwriter Duffy mingled with the crowds during the event and joined the bike ride which travelled north from Camden Market, crossing Hampstead Heath before returning to Camden Market. Having completed the ride a breathless Duffy said: "North London is famously a ‘hip’ place to live … I figured that the people in this area would be keen to know how they can get ahead of the game, so I joined Vivienne to help promote awareness of issues such as air quality."
ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, fitted one of the bikes with an AQMesh air quality monitor so that live readings could be viewed during the festival, and the graph below shows Nitrogen Dioxide levels (one of the most important pollutants) during the ride. Andrea Lee from ClientEarth’s Healthy Air Campaign rode the three-wheeled Cargo Bike and collected the air quality data. “NO2 levels declined overnight, but increased sharply as the morning traffic started,” she reported. “However, it is interesting to note that pollutant levels dropped significantly as the cyclists travelled away from the traffic through Hampstead Heath. This highlights how traffic affects people’s health through increased exposure to air pollution.”
The day was opened by Dame Vivienne Westwood who led the Cleaner Air Bike Ride around Camden demonstrating low pollution cycle routes. She was joined by Duffy, Sally Gimson (Labour councillor for Camden and cabinet member for sustainability and environment), members of the public, Camden Council and local cycle groups.
The overarching theme of the day was to recognise and address air pollution and sustainability within the borough of Camden and city-wide. Guest speakers talked passionately about using green transport, growing your own food and protecting natural spaces.
Duffy was particularly interested in the development of localised air quality data. “It’s over 60 years since the Great Smog of London which killed an extra 4,000 people, so it’s astonishing that a similar number of people still die prematurely every year in London as a result of air pollution,” she said, adding: “Air quality information needs to be made available in a way that can help people make informed decisions – where to live, where to send their kids to school, which route to travel to work and even where to jog or cycle.
“Despite the fact that air quality is a bigger killer than obesity, alcohol or road accidents, air quality is not a priority in most people’s lives. As a nation, we have just scraped ourselves out of a pretty deep economic hole, leaving many people feeling vulnerable and demoralised; your home is your security - home is where the heart is (and all that); people need to know the air quality on their street as it will start to impact on where they want to live.”
She continues: “So, when air quality affects people’s pockets, they will surely take notice, and make decisions that reduce pollution – walking more, cycling more, driving less and buying cars with cleaner (non-diesel) emissions? This is not just about climate and environment; this is about people and the economy. In a nutshell … house prices will someday be affected by the quality of the air. So act now, to sustain the value of your home …”
Situated in the south west of Wales, in a largely rural area bordering the Brecon Beacons, Carmarthenshire’s air quality is predominantly good. However, there are areas of concern where major roads pass through some of the County’s larger towns, including Llanelli, Carmarthen and Llandeilo, where air quality is dominated by the effects of road traffic. The County Council is therefore testing new monitoring technologies so that it will be better able to track the effects of improvement measures.
Carmarthenshire County Council operates a network of passive diffusion tubes as part of its commitment to Local Air Quality Management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. However, in 2013, Air Monitors supplied the Council with a new type of air quality monitor, ‘AQMesh’, that is able to provide continuous air quality readings for a range of important parameters. This new technology is small, wireless, lightweight and battery powered, which means that it can be quickly and simply mounted in almost any location.
The Council’s monitoring programme has identified Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from traffic emissions, mostly diesel vehicles, as the pollutant of greatest concern. A number of locations in the centre of Llandeilo have been shown to be in breach of European air quality standards, so an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been established in the town. Whilst NO2 levels are not sufficiently high to cause immediate health effects, the current levels could cause adverse health effects over the long term, particularly in people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
NO2 reduction by about 25µg/m3 is the main objective of the air quality action plan, but the Council is determined to ensure that all pollutants remain at safe levels, so the ability of the AQMesh to monitor a wide range of parameters (Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Temperature, Humidity and Atmospheric Pressure) is a major benefit.
Stephen Hoskin from Air Monitors says: “There are a number of important new features in AQMesh that are fundamentally changing the way that air quality is monitored; firstly, it can be located where air quality matters most – where people are breathing.
“Secondly, in comparison with large reference stations, with only a small drop in levels of accuracy, the cost of monitoring is reduced dramatically, which means that users will be able to measure air quality in more locations, and this will reduce the UK’s current dependence on modelling to ‘guesstimate’ air quality.
“Finally, by providing near real-time data over the internet, useful air quality data can be made available to a much wider audience via smartphones, tablets and computers.”
The AQMesh in Carmarthenshire is being operated by Oliver Matthews, one of the Council’s Environmental Health Practitioners with specific responsibility for air quality. He says: “In the past we have not continuously monitored this range of parameters because doing so would have involved the installation of a large, expensive air quality monitoring station that would have probably required planning permission.
“These reference stations offer high levels of accuracy, but come with large capital and operational costs, and cannot typically be moved, whereas the AQMesh can be quickly attached to a lamp post or other item of street furniture at a fraction of the cost.
“Alternatively, we could install passive diffusion tubes, one for each parameter of interest, but the disadvantage of this method is that the tubes are left in place for four to five weeks, so we are only provided with an average figure over that time, with no indication of the peaks and troughs that occur. For example, a recent road closure resulted in the diversion of traffic and, with the benefit of AQMesh, we were able to track a significant short-term rise in NO2.”
With the assistance of key stakeholders, the AQMA draft action plan has identified a number of options to improve air quality, and the AQMesh unit has been installed in order to help assess the success or failure of each initiative.
Interestingly, the development of the AQMA action plan benefitted from essential gas main works that were required in Llandeilo because this involved the closure of the main trunk road (Rhosmaen Street) for a period of up to three months, which provided an opportunity to identify the effects of traffic diversions on air quality.
Options that are being considered as part of the action plan include improving traffic management and seek to prevent vehicular ‘stop/start’ and promote a smooth flow of traffic. Typically, these options could include the provision of extra parking outside of the AQMA, the removal of some on-road parking within the AQMA, better parking enforcement, relocation of bus stops, reviewing pedestrian crossings and improvement of bottle necks.
Summarising Oliver says: “The network of diffusion tubes has enabled us to identify hotspots, and these are the locations at which the AQMesh will be of greatest use because we will be able to study trends and look for the causes of elevated pollution levels at specific times of the day.
“Data from the AQMesh are provided on a website via the ‘Cloud’ so, looking forward, this technology has the potential to make a major difference to air quality improvements and to the transparency and availability of data. For example, it may become possible to integrate air quality monitoring with automatic traffic management.”
Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors and Envirologger, a developer of machine to machine (M2M) technology, was recently invited to speak at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Dallas, USA. The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) was the central theme of the Conference, which sought to identify the potential for wireless ‘smart’ systems in applications as diverse as the remote control of domestic appliances with smartphones to space robotics and personal medical devices.
With 18,000 employees worldwide, Freescale is a leader in embedded processing solutions for the automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets. From microcontrollers and microprocessors to sensors, analogue integrated circuits and connectivity, the company’s technologies are employed in many of the devices that we use every day.
Developed with the embedded engineer in mind, the FTF events drive innovation and collaboration amongst the global developer community, drawing nearly 60,000 attendees worldwide since their inception in 2005. The Dallas Conference was attended by around 2,000 engineers and speakers include Freescale’s CEO and senior management with guest presentations from some of the world’s leading technology innovation companies, including General Motors, Oracle, ARM, etc.
The guest speakers were invited to demonstrate that the IoT is already being employed successfully in a wide variety of applications and Jim Mills was asked to show delegates how Envirologger has web-enabled much of the UK’s air quality monitoring network. Jim outlined the ways in which Envirologger exploits Freescale technology to provide real-time access to remote monitors for air quality, traffic, meteorology and noise. “The Envirologger Gateway can be connected to just about any monitor, collecting data and passing it to our cloud-based servers,” he explained, adding: “We have also built Freescale technology into the wireless nodes that we have developed, which can be connected to individual sensors.”
During his presentation, Jim provided a live demonstration, featuring a global map showing the locations of Envirologger monitoring stations. For the purposes of the demonstration, Jim had configured carbon dioxide monitoring points at Freescale locations in both Scotland and Dallas, from which both historical and live data could be viewed.
Commenting on applications for the IoT Jim said: "We are seeing strong growth in the market for environmental monitoring and our customers are constantly finding new ways to exploit the value of live data.
"In essence, our customers need data, so with monitoring information stored in the 'cloud' we are finding that more and more customers prefer to rent data rather than purchase equipment and run it themselves. In addition, by web-enabling the data, users are able to provide information to an enormous number of people, which massively increases the value of the data."
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.”