The Particulars on Particulates

New EPA rules allow continuous monitoring methods for fine particle pollution

Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particle pollution. As part of that measure, EPA issued revisions to the ambient air monitoring rules for fine particulate matter (PM-2.5). These actions were published in the Federal Register Oct. 17, 2006, and became effective Dec. 18, 2006.

The current manual gravimetric Federal Reference Method (FRM) for PM-2.5 involves a sequence of sample filter preparation, transport to the field site, insertion into the sampling device, active air sampling, sample filter recovery, transport to the laboratory, and sample filter conditioning followed by a weighing that provides a 24-hour integrated measure of particle mass per unit volume of air (micrograms per cubic meter).

EPA’s new rules allow continuous particulate monitors to be designated as a Federal Equivalent Method (FEM) that would supplement or replace existing FRM samplers. The field test criteria require FEM candidates to be trialed during the winter and summer at locations that represent unique, yet diverse, airsheds within the United States. A FEM monitor allows in situ hourly PM- 2.5 measurement, avoids the costly labor-intensive process associated with the FRM, and provides immediate data for public reporting.

Our company manufactures the continuous beta attenuation monitor (BAM) for regulatory PM-10 and PM- 2.5 monitoring. Other versions of the BAM, along with our optical aerosol monitors, allow particle measurement for industrial and research applications. These instruments help expand the monitoring of harmful airborne particles in both outdoor and indoor environments.

More information on these EPA rules can be found at air/particles/actions.html.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Lucy H. Fraiser, PhD, DABT, is a senior toxicologist and risk assessment specialist with ENSR International. Dr. Fraiser has 14 years of experience in risk assessment for toxic airborne materials, regulatory compliance planning and risk communication. Betsy Ruffle also contributed to this article. She has a MS in Environmental Health, and is the Risk Assessment Department Manager of ENSR's Massachusetts office.

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