You can have a hundred Air Pollution Monitoring Stations, but still, the levels of air pollution will stay as it is. In fact, pollution levels can still rise.
So, why in the first place should we have them? This is because an Air Monitoring System’s role is not to reduce air pollution, but to assess its levels in the economy. An immediate question might pop up into your head, so what makes it so helpful and why is there a need for an Air Monitoring System?
Why have Air Monitoring Systems?
Here’s why. Before you can actually do something of a problem, you need to understand the roots of the same. That is what an Air Quality Monitoring System does. It helps you understand the air pollution problem and that is when you get a direction for addressing pollution control measures.
It is only with Air Quality Monitoring that we can distinguish between regions where air pollution is crossing limits and where it isn’t. Some places where it crosses the set standards, reasons can be entirely localized. For instance, a factory or a busy road can be located nearby but it is very easy to not recognize that air pollution is crossing limits and thereafter adverse health effects start to show. Also, it is only with an Air Monitoring System, a person can reckon that the efforts made towards reducing Air Pollution are working or not.
Objectives of Air Quality Monitoring
We spoke in brief on how important it is to monitor an area or region’s air quality. Let us define its objectives in a more systematic way.
1. Determining the Air Quality of an area – The first one is the most basic objective of air monitoring. It is to determine the level of contaminants present in the air. But, determining is only half of it. Next would be to compare it with the set standards and guidelines.
2. Reporting it to authorities – You cannot keep your data to yourself; you need to pass it to the state of the environment. You alone will not do anything but collective action is what needed when it comes to saving the environment. Pass it further so the authorities can do so.
3. Exploratory Data Analysis – You will have to obtain exploratory data and it is only after air monitoring you will be able to approach the same. To get data sets and visuals, you will need air monitoring.
4. Air Quality Research – Air monitoring and air quality research are two different things, and to conduct air quality research you need to conduct air monitoring.
5. To perform air quality modeling – Not many people know this but the way air pollution works are actually quite predictable. It is called air pollution modeling.
6. To develop strategies and policies – To set standards, you first need to have reported on the current air quality situation. To improve the current scenario, you first need to know how the current scenario looks like, that’s why air monitoring is necessary.
7. To know whether the previous policies were effective or not – Every state or government has its own policies and guidelines when it comes to air pollution. They have their own standards to help you reckon whether or not you are meeting the current state. To know whether the strategy set in the past was efficient enough can be done only when we know if the current state is meeting the guidelines. Air monitoring does that for you.
Now that we have spoken about why and how important air monitoring as a process is, and also about what majorly are the objectives behind air monitoring, we can now know the various ways and types air monitoring can happen.
1. Screening Surveys
You can call this the first level of air monitoring. In this level, data is put together to know whether detailed monitoring is required in the future or not for specific areas. Naturally, simple monitoring techniques are required for the same. You get a quick and cost effective picture of what is actually happening. Non standard methods like passive samplers of gasses and volatile organic compounds are used. If you talk about the time span, ideally they should be conducted for at least a six month period, to include summer and winter conditions.
2. Continuous Monitoring
Screening surveys would only provide data that would help you determine whether continuous monitoring is needed or not. Practically, so the data derived from that will not be sufficient when it comes to determining detailed reports. Also, you will not be able to meet the state guidelines with screening surveys. You need continuous monitoring. So, the sites and areas which generally fall for continuous monitoring are, = are regions that require long term monitoring of contaminant levels and trends using standard monitoring. It is also used at the sites that must be matched with national guidelines. You need continuous monitoring for that.
3. Monitoring for research purposes
And lastly, this consists of a small part of the region where one needs to address specific issues like local dispersion. Work is done using non-standard methods like specialized sampling types of equipment.
We need to take care of our environment and no one would do that for us. Air monitoring is one step towards it. if done properly, you will see how effective it can be to make informed decisions and improve the environment.