How to Measure Air Quality

When we talk about air quality, we’re talking about how clean or polluted the air we breathe is at any given moment.

When we say the air quality is poor, it means there are pollutants in the air. These can be hazardous to breathe, especially if you have a heart or a lung condition.

The UK government determines its Daily Air Quality Index through measuring the concentration of five pollutants in a site or region:

  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter – they search for two different particle sizes at once. This can include natural particles such as pollen, sea spray and desert dust, as well as human-made particles, such as vehicle emissions.

How is Air Quality Measured?

We measure air quality by measuring the relative levels of these pollutants in the air. There are two main ways to do this. One through continuous monitoring and one through monitoring periodically for days at a time.

Continuous real-time air quality monitoring: Monitoring stations can provide up-to-date data on an hourly basis, which makes it possible to determine the air quality in any given area at any given time.

Periodical air monitoring: Another way to measure air quality is to place a filter or canister in an area for a given period – such as a day, three days, or a week. At the end of this period you remove the canister and analyse the build-up of contaminants on the filter.

What Affects Air Quality?

Some sources of air pollution are natural. For example, the pollen count affects air quality, and this largely depends on the time of the year, and the weather. But it’s mainly human activity that affects air quality. And these are the activities that can have the greatest impact:

  • Burning fuel – From burning wood in domestic fireplaces, to burning fuels on an industrial level for energy generation. These practices produce small particulates as well as sulphur dioxide.
  • Road transport – Vehicle emissions contain harmful particulates, as well as other pollutants including nitrogen oxide.
  • Farming – Practices such as spreading manures, slurries, and inorganic fertilisers can create pollutants such as ammonia and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCS).

On the other hand, these are the factors that can improve air quality:

  • The weather – Air quality is generally lower on hot and still days, and higher on cool and breezy days.
  • Your location – Air quality will be considerably lower next to busy roads and junctions, and the air quality in a rural area will depend on the levels of industrial or agricultural activity in an area.
  • Ventilation – You can filter the air in a building to remove any harmful particles, and keep an area ventilated to ensure that no pollutants can build up in a closed area.

How to Improve Air Quality in Hospitals, Schools and Workplaces

Many workplaces are located in built-up areas, often close to major roads. So maintaining healthy air quality can be a constant battle. Air purifiers can filter many harmful particles, and they can even trap and remove certain airborne diseases and viruses. You can get small standalone purifiers for single rooms, as well as larger systems for larger rooms, some capable of achieving five air changes per hour. Browse our range of air purifiers for hospitals, schools and workplaces.

We also offer a workplace monitoring service. We can monitor your staff’s exposure levels to any potentially harmful substances in your workplace, helping you to understand your risk levels so you can devise an air quality solution that works for you. Head here to learn more about our bespoke air quality monitoring services.