Air Quality 101: How Can Air Pollution Be Monitored?

Air Quality is the condition of how clean or polluted the surrounding air is. Air pollution is present in ports and surrounding cities. If left unmonitored, air pollutants can cause many health and environmental issues. Today there exist many different types of air monitoring solutions since there is an increasing global concern for air quality and air pollution. 

Air is composed of: 

  • Nitrogen and oxygen, which make up 99 percent of our air 
  • & Other gases including argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium, krypton, hydrogen, and xenon. 

What Is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is any chemical in the atmosphere that negatively affects the health of human life, wildlife, and sea life. Studies show, like heavy smoking, air pollution can significantly reduce our lifespan and cause disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 out of 10 people on the planet are currently breathing polluted air, and air pollution is responsible for 1/3 of strokes, lung cancer, and heart disease.  

Air pollution is a major public health issue and a large environmental and health risk.

What Causes Air Pollution?

There are two main air pollution sources: 

  • Natural Sources, pollutants from fires, volcanoes, pollen, and dust  
  • Anthropogenic sources, pollutants from used fossil fuels, industries, and vehicles

 

It is estimated that in 2019 air pollution contributed to 6.7 million deaths around the world. 

What Makes Up Air Pollution?

Air pollution is a composition of harmful chemicals. These chemicals include:  

  • Particulate matter (PM), which is extremely small liquid droplets classified by the diameter size of the particle. Particulate matter that is less than 10 mm, called PM10, is extremely harmful because it can reach deep parts of the lungs and bloodstream. To put this into perspective, 10mm is smaller than a grain of sand or a piece of hair. Their small size is what makes them so harmful to human health.  
  • Volatile organic compounds like gas and formaldehyde.
  • Nitrogen dioxide, which is caused by fuel from vehicles or gas stoves for example.  
  • Carbon monoxide, which is from the exhaust such as heavy traffic.  
  • Sulfur dioxide, caused by sulfur-containing fuels.  
  • Lead, which is caused by metal processing. 
  • Smog ozone (different than the natural ozone layer), which is a colorless gas formed because of sunlight interacting with nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds.  

 

The above pollutants can then compound and produce secondary pollutants like nitric acid and sulfuric acid. These can combine and cause acid deposition which leads to acid rain, changing the PH of the entire food web.  

How Can Air Pollution Be Monitored?

Air pollution must be monitored to protect human health and the surrounding environment.  

Air pollution monitoring by the European Environment Agency (EEA) began in the 1970s. Air pollution monitoring by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) began in the 1980s. The EPA for example reports air pollution levels and makes predictive forecasts.  

Now, most countries have national laws, regulations, and programs to measure pollutants. In Europe, there is the European Copernicus program which monitors the atmosphere and maps out trace gases that affect our air, health, and climate. In the United States, there is the Clean Air Act which is a federal law that regulates air pollution emissions and concentrations.  

Air pollution can be monitored using environmental monitoring systems such as stations, sensors, new technologies, and the Air Quality Index (AQI). 

Ambient air monitoring programs, which are the long-term monitoring of air pollutants, use mobile, IoT, and Big Data technologies. For instance, in London, hundreds of IoT sensors combined with satellites and open sources help measure air pollution levels. Ambient air monitoring provides public and transparent information about current pollutants in the air. 

Machine learning, Big Data, IoT, plus open information like traffic and weather data help cities to monitor air quality pollution in real-time.  

How Can Air Pollution Be Checked and Controlled?

Air pollution can be checked and controlled thanks to regulations, legislation, and existing technological solutions. To reduce air pollution, many governments have developed standards to regulate pollution and policies to reduce the environmental impact of solutions and promote clean energy sources.  

Developed technologies can now scrub pollutants out of the air, and some countries have set in place legislation that limits the number of pollutants certain industries are allowed to produce each year.  

Air Pollution and the Maritime Industry

Maritime activities, such as shipping, can lead to harmful emissions that travel far distances. These emissions can in turn create pollutants like particulate matter. That is why organizations like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have created legislation in Europe; for example, ships cannot use fuel containing more than .05% of Sulphur content. 

As industrial shipping uses 300 metric tons of fuel each year, and fuel is one of the main contributors to air pollution, it is important that the shipping industry monitors pollutants released as well as finds new clean energy sources for shipping. With shipping activity increasing every year, if pollutants are not reduced air quality will only worsen.  

Ports and thus surrounding cities are faced with port congestion due to increased shipping. The more crowded ports are the worse the air quality is around these cities. Ports are also normally industrial environments which also contribute to air pollution.  

Therefore, it is important that ports monitor the air quality of the port to ensure that harm is not done to the surrounding community. 

Sinay Cares About Air Quality

At Sinay we care about air quality and its impacts, which is why we created the Sinay Air Module to help ports and the shipping industry monitor air pollution. With the Sinay Air Module, you can monitor key air quality indicators (among which S2, N2, PM1, PM2.5, and PM10) using sensors, be alerted in real-time when you exceed certain thresholds to make the best decisions, and generate automatic monitoring reports. 

Air quality monitoring allows ports to conform to increasingly stricter air pollution regulations and legislation.   

Frequently Asked Questions About: AIR POLLUTION MONITORING

Pollution is monitored with environmental monitoring.

Environmental monitoring is composed of tools and techniques that identify, analyze, and establish parameters for environmental conditions to quantifiably assess the impacts of various activities on the environment.

Environmental monitoring allows pollution levels to be controlled and trends to be identified.

Air pollution is checked and controlled by government laws and legislation. The Air Quality Index is a tool used by many governments to communicate air quality levels. 

An air quality monitoring system is a process that monitors the quality of the air in relation to pollutants and toxins. The system is often an application that uses data and AI to produce key indicators. 

Indoor air quality is monitored with hardware, software, and services designed specifically to be placed indoors. They detect pollutants and can measure the quality of the air. 

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