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Particulate Matter - Why do we monitor it?

19 July 2017

Our health is incredibly important to us; without it we have nothing. If we can prevent ourselves from becoming unwell, wouldn’t we all take that opportunity? With increasing construction works around the country the importance of air quality and it’s health implications has become a prominent feature in the media. You might have heard of PM10, but what exactly is it and how does that affect our air quality?

Particulate matter – all the answers!

Air pollution or air quality is a very wide concept and can mean various things but are all related to our heath. When we talk about particulate air pollution we talk about an air-suspended mixture of both solid and liquid particles and these are all related to size and the possible harm they can do to the human body.

The size of the particles defines three classifications:

  1. ultrafine particles: <0.1µm in diameter;
  2. Fine: 0.1 to 2.5µm in diameter;
  3. Coarse: between 10µm and 2.5µm in diameter.

 

Local councils in general will only be interested in PM10. When monitoring PM10 all particles smaller than 10 µm are logged – which includes fine and ultrafine particles. These particles include dust, pollen and mould spores (PM10) and combustion particles, organic compounds and metals (PM2.5). The table below sums it all up and shows where particulate matter comes from.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes particles are affecting more people worldwide than any other pollutant. Damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular are one of the primary health effects. The small particles can easily penetrate in to the deepest parts of our lungs as well as access the gas exchange regions of the lung via diffusion.

 

As a result of the damaging health effects from PM10 the WHO recommend the exposure limit below – which is commonly the limit values that local councils use in their Code of Practice:

 

PM10: 50 ug/m3 24 hour mean

 

To control this limit on site, local councils demand higher limits in shorter time periods to make sure daily exposure limits won’t be exceeded. Often, they will ask for a 200 or 250 ug/m3 per 15-minute RED alert.

These guidelines can be hard to follow because of the many activities going on in all our mayor cities. The limits are therefore hard to meet in a whole but the understanding and seriousness of the issue is a great step forward. Monitoring certain activities that have a higher risk of producing these particles, like construction & demolition, will eventually lead to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.

Local governments don’t always acknowledge higher particle sizes are a threat because there is no direct health risk involved. As the table above points out these particles are visible to the human eye and therefore will end up in the nuisance category. This size is called Total Suspended Particles (TSP) which is everything above 10µm but can still affect health.

How can Campbell Associates assist you?

We have two types of particle monitors in our product range. The Dust Sentry and the Dust Profiler. Our Dust Sentry can either measure TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 by changing the cyclone. The PM10 part of the Dust Sentry is MCERTS by the Environmental Agency and will give you accurate readings to control your sites emissions. The Dust Profiler can measure TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 simultaneously.

Both monitors are fully automated and have full remote access to view & download data, print reports, set alerts and change settings. The Dust Sentry and Dust Profiler Particulate Monitors are easy to install, maintain and have a lower cost of ownership when compared to reference equivalent monitors. Just supply power and you will be in good hands.

If you want to learn more, please contact us.

 

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