Air Quality Assessment Tools: A Guide for Public Health Practitioners

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Several tools exist to assess local air quality, including the impact of specific sources, emissions, and meteorological conditions. Information generated from the use of air quality assessment tools can inform decisions on permitting of emissions, industrial siting, and land use; all can impact local air quality, which in turn can influence air pollution related health effects of a population.The five tools discussed in this guide (highlighted with case examples) address different components of air quality:

  • Emissions inventories are databases of air pollution sources and their emissions, which allow for the monitoring of pollution releases to the air; emissions inventories can feed into other tools, such as dispersion models.
  • Dispersion modeling uses data on emissions, meteorology, and topography to provide estimates of ambient pollutant concentrations at specific receptor sites.
  • Source apportionment helps to identify important sources in an area by using information on ambient pollutant levels.
  • Mobile monitoring, in contrast to traditional fixed site monitoring, allows for a better understanding of pollutant concentrations and their sources, both temporally and, very importantly, spatially; Data collected by mobile monitoring projects can feed into models, such as land-use regression.
  • Land use regression uses a combination of local information to provide the best estimates of ambient pollution in a specific area. 

Health impact assessment is an example of direct application of information generated by air quality assessment tools, to understand the air quality related health impacts of a population.

Publication Date Dec 15, 2011
Author Barn P, Jackson P, Suzuki N, Kosatsky T, Jennejohn D, Henderson S, McCormick W, Millar G, Plain E, Poplawski K, Setton E
Posted by NCCEH Feb 28, 2012