New methods to measure airborne particulates to better public health protection
Aerosols are suspensions of fine particles or liquids in air, both natural and manmade. Exposure to airborne aerosols has been linked to adverse health effects, including allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. In Europe, more than 500,000 premature deaths a year can be attributed to fine particulate matter (PM) exposure, for example, while millions suffer from allergies and asthma caused by natural pollens. Currently, the only type of airborne particulate measurement robust enough for use in legislation is PM mass concentration. However, other metrics, such as particle number concentration and aerosol chemical composition, may more closely correlate to the actual causes of damaging health effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve the accuracy of aerosol monitoring so air quality legislation focus on reducing harm, and also for more accurate measurement methods for several types of aerosol.
Building on previous EMPIR project AEROMET, this project will develop improved aerosol measuring methods and reference materials for calibrating particle size spectrometers, automated pollen monitoring instruments and for the chemical characterisation of ambient aerosols. The project will go on to validate these developments in field campaigns using new portable instruments. It will also develop software and guidance suited to non-expert users. The project will provide traceability to primary standards and contribute to international standards development, including CEN standards and technical specifications. Ultimately, the improved monitoring that will be enabled will be able to support public health measures more likely to limit exposure of Europe’s populations to the most harmful airborne aerosols.