Air Quality | WWF

Air Quality

The quality of air is determined by both natural processes like a dust storm or forest fire and by human activities. Unhealthy air is created when air pollutants like CFCs are found in too high quantities and pose a threat to human health and to the environment.
There are scientific methods of studying the quality of air to determine how polluted it is. When we measure air quality, we measure the concentration of specific air pollutants that may be in the air and compare those measurements to standards set specifically for those air pollutants.

The standard level is a level below which there will be almost no harmful human health or environmental effects. There are different ways of collecting air samples to test moisture content, level of nitrogen or ozone or other pollutants. The amount of pollution in the air is usually measured by its concentration in air. The concentration of a pollutant in air may be defined in terms of the proportion of the total volume that it accounts for.

Why measure air quality?
  • Helps identify the key pollutants and track their level daily
  • Data can be used for alerting the population of the area about any potential health hazard
  • Helps to identify the key pollutants that affect the growth of plants in the area
  • Helps identify ways in which air pollution can be reduced in a particular area by comparing data of high pollution days with low pollution days;/li>
How to measure air quality
First you will need to decide whether you want to test the quality of indoor air or outdoor air/ ambient air.

Keep the following factors in mind:

The kind of pollutant most likely to be in the air
If it were a classroom, there would be less smoke but more chalk dust. If it is near a driveway there could be more gas emissions and dust.

What factors determine the level of pollution
The ventilation system, air pollution in the surrounding areas. For example, is there a factory or a highway near your neighbourhood? Do traffic jams take place often near the area? Climatic changes also affect the level of pollution. Furniture, carpets and other household items also contribute to pollution.

One of the simple ways of measuring air is to use a simple collection device. You will need a pump to pump the air into the collector. The collector could be a filter or a chemical solution that will contain the pollutant. Once this is collected, you have to seal it and then take it for laboratory testing. Different tests can be conducted to find out what are the contaminants and their percentages.

You will have to measure the results with the accepted air quality standards in the area. These standards can be taken from the local authorities or the local meteorological office. In your results, make notes of which pollutants are man-made and which are natural.