Is There a Need for Standards for Brief Peaks of Air Pollutants?


Peak event analysis: a novel empirical method for the evaluation of elevated particulate events(12 page pdf, Aaron Orkin, Pamela Leece, Thomas Piggott, Paul Burt, Ray Copes, Environmental Health, Nov. 1, 2013)

Today we review research into the occurrence of brief peaks of suspended particles (or dust), how often they occur (in a rural area of southern Ontario) and if the results point to a need for standards for periods of less than an hour- the shortest time period currently used in Canada and many other countries. The resulting analysis showed that peak values of PM10  twenty to one hundred times greater than values averaged over an hour which were within the current standards. Although the aim of the research was to examine single events with high associated levels of pollution, one cannot help but wonder what the health impacts would be for people exposed to repeated doses of high pollution for shorter periods than are covered by existing standards, such as proximity to roadside emissions at rush hour each day. If there is a definable health impact, that would both call for standards for shorter periods- say 10 minutes or one minute- and might explain the degree of mortality associated with traffic (which has been estimated as about 1/3 of all deaths from outdoor air pollution in a study conducted by the City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health).

short period AQ

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

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One Response

  1. † NOTE: The assertion that “there were no nonattainment areas under the old standards” is contradicted by the previous footnote, which states that there were 16.7 million people living in counties with air quality concentrations above the annual and/or 24-hour standards for SO2 in 2010. Since the newest standard (2010) is based on a 1-hour time frame, this statement cannot refer to the new standard.

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