Air Pollution Monitoring

Air Pollution Monitor


According to the World Health Organization, nine out of 10 people on Earth breathe polluted air, a number that contributes to millions of deaths every year.


Some of the most serious air pollutants are known as PM-2.5, small particles nearly 30 times finer than a human hair that get deep into lungs and even pass into the bloodstream. The ingestion of these particles is scientifically linked to aggravated asthma, respiratory illness and failure, irregular heartbeat and an increased chance of premature death in people with heart or lung disease.


Asia and Africa, areas of intense industrial development with heightened levels of fossil fuel consumption, have been particularly afflicted by PM-2.5 and other air pollutants, accounting for more than 90% of air pollution deaths worldwide.


In China alone, over a million people die each year due to extended air pollution exposure. As a result, the nation has started taking aggressive steps to reduce its air pollution footprint. In 2013, China embarked on an ambitious air quality control policy known as the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan (APPCAP), laying out a series of strict measures to cut emissions, embrace clean energy and improve pollution regulation and monitoring. In addition to investing heavily in renewable energies, the largest manufacturing country in the world has started requiring its factories to monitor and report their air emissions using a network of specialized air monitors—an attempt to stem the pollution being produced from one of its largest toxic emissions culprits.


“The ability to monitor and measure the impact of pollution reduction methods has been vital to the success of air pollution prevention programs across the globe,” says William J. Lehnert, Vice President of Sales at LND, Inc.  “LND alpha-beta-gamma proportional counters, such as the LND 4335, provide the accuracy and stability required in beta attenuation particulate matter measurements.”


To accurately measure the amount of pollution they are releasing, Chinese factories employ a series of air monitors and detectors connected to factory smokestacks. One of these monitors is the Carbon-14 Continuous Particulate Monitor, which measures the mass concentration of PM-2.5 and PM-10—a slightly larger pollutant particle like dust or smoke—by a process called beta attenuation. Installed inside the rim of a factory smokestack, the monitor sends beta rays through a continuous filter tape before it reaches an alpha-beta-gamma proportional counter. As the filter tape collects more and more particulates from the air, beta rays are obstructed, and less reach the counter. The collected beta radiation helps form a reading of how much harmful PM-2.5 and PM-10 are being released from the factory. This information is collected on half-hour averages year-round, its readings immediately transmitted to China’s mandatory network of monitors tracking country-wide pollution in real time. Factories in violation of established emissions levels are then reported to local and national enforcement agencies.


Between China’s adoption of the APPCAP in 2013 and 2017, annual concentrations of PM-2.5 dropped 33.3%, PM-10 dropped 27.8%, Sulphur dioxide dropped 54.1% and carbon monoxide dropped 28.2% according to a study by Chinese researchers documenting air pollution levels over 74 of China’s most polluted cities. The study also concluded that there were nearly 50, 000 fewer air quality-related deaths in 2017 as compared with 2013.


While China still ranks as the 12th most polluted country in the world, its APPCAP policy and the resulting air monitoring network and other pollution reduction initiatives are slowly turning the country’s negative environmental and health momentum. Additionally, in 2019, the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation declared that China has “taken the lead in renewable energy,” adding that the nation is the largest producer, exporter and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles.


The country’s dramatic turnaround may also serve as a model for other heavily polluted nations like India and Pakistan, providing the road map for utilizing scalable technology to monitor, assess and address pollution to bring about systemic change.