Monitoring and Measurements

The first step in finding out how good or bad our air is to carry out some testing and monitoring of the air around us and as part of this teaching package you have the chance to monitor the air quality around your school.

In days gone by, the main source of air pollution in Central Scotland was industry. Now that much of the heavy industry of the area has gone air quality in some areas has improved, but unfortunately, there is a new culprit polluting the skies – the automobile.

Our roads are busier than ever. Car emissions contain a range of toxic substances that can have a serious impact on health and we use different types of monitors to closely watch the levels of pollution in our towns, cities and countryside.

The first, most simple type of air monitor that can be used is called a Diffusion Tube. This is a small plastic tube which absorbs any Nitrogen Dioxide gas that drifts past. The tube is attached onto something close to the source of the pollution, usually on a lamp-post or on the side of a house/wall/fence etc. It is changed each month and it is analysed to give a monthly level of the Nitrogen Dioxide in the area. Your local Council will have some of these tubes set up across their area to give them a good idea of what Nitrogen Dioxide levels are like across their district.

The other, more technical air monitor that we use are Automatic Monitors and they are able to give us up-to-date information on air pollution as it happens. This monitoring records the air quality continuously – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and downloads the information to a computer, which is checked every day. These air monitors are able to tell us if air pollution is bad at certain times of the day, for example, at rush hour, when people are trying to get to school or work, and home again in the evening. They can also tell us if the air pollution is worse at certain times of the year, for example, when there is little or no wind the pollution can be trapped in the air and doesn’t disperse easily then levels of pollution can be high. Also if there is a particular pollution event, such as a large fire in the area or even further away in Europe, we can usually see the air pollution levels creeping higher.

In this teaching package you can use a simple type of automatic monitor to measure air pollution around your schools. This can be setup on a lamp-post near to the front of your school and will show you the patterns of air quality changing throughout the day and week.

In order to complete the activities, the pupils will need access to computers. These activities could be completed individually or in pairs.

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