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Measuring Air Quality
Air monitoring systemOverview
Measuring the quality of the ambient air is done through the operation of a network of air sampling devices, usually referred to as air monitors. There are three categories of air monitoring: State or Local Air Monitoring Stations (SLAMS), National Air Monitoring Stations (NAMS) and special purpose stations.

Special purpose monitors are used to measure potential problem sources that are unique to respective areas, while the NAMS and the SLAMS are part of the national set of monitoring stations. These highly sophisticated electronic instruments are installed at specific sites at the discretion of the agency.

Each system is frequently checked, maintained and calibrated to insure that operational requirements are being met, and that the data collected is of the highest quality possible. From this data, decisions involving millions of dollars are made to choose various air pollution control options.

Air Monitoring Objectives

Air monitoring sites are set up to achieve various objectives. A site’s objective can be for sources, population, background or special purpose monitoring. Site selection requirements vary according to the objective of each sampler. Choosing an air monitoring site is a complicated task, requiring extensive study to insure that the proper requirements for an effective monitor are met prior to establishing a station in a designated location.

Two separate sampling networks are utilized in measuring the ambient air: continuous and manual. The continuous sampling network utilizes complex electronic instrumentation where data is collected continuously at a site twenty-four hours a day.

In the manual sampling network, samples are manually set up and later collected at various field locations. After field collection, these samples are sent to the agency’s laboratory where analyses are performed to determine sample concentrations.