Aurora Nephelometers - Keeping communities safer during unprecedented wildfires in the USA
13 Nov 2020
The skyline of Seattle, WA, barely visible due to catastrophic wildfires and resultant air pollution on 11 September 2020. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which administers air quality for the city, relies on more than a dozen Acoem Aurora™ nephelometers to monitor pollution levels.
Smoke-related pollution is a significant threat to populations living in and around wildfire zones. When inhaled, particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) emanating from these fires can penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death. It irritates eyes and can cause wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Monitoring air quality in high-risk areas using the Acoem range of Aurora™ nephelometers helps safeguard your community.
The importance of air quality monitoring during wildfires
This year has been catastrophic for many reasons, and the ongoing wildfires on the United States West Coast are no exception. So far, the fires in California, Oregon and Washington State have burned in excess of 8 million acres, making 2020 the West Coast’s worst fire season in 70 years.
In addition to taking the lives of at least 35 people and destroying thousands of homes and structures, the blazes have resulted in extreme air pollution that threatens the health of millions of residents. The wildfires could also impact the survival of countless plant and animal species and cause irreparable damage to ecosystems.
On several days in September 2020, measurements of particulate levels taken by environmental protection agencies on the West Coast indicated that cities in three states had the worst air quality in the world, far exceeding EPA limits. In fact, levels extended beyond the measuring index. During fire emergency situations, accurate monitoring of PM2.5, smoke, dust and haze is critical to ensure that local authorities have the precise data to help protect their local population from the harmful effects of exposure to increased levels of smoke-related pollution.
Protecting communities in vulnerable areas
American Ecotech, an Acoem distribution partner in the United States, has been at the forefront of protecting vulnerable communities from polluted air for over two decades. It currently supplies and maintains 50 Aurora™ nephelometers for eight local, state and tribal environmental protection agencies across the West Coast of the US.
One of its customers, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, is responsible for air quality and pollution management in an area of over 2,500 km2 around the city of Seattle, WA and has been using more than a dozen Aurora™ nephelometers for 15 years. This year has seen pollution levels in cities like Seattle become extremely hazardous.
During the 2017 fire season, American Ecotech provided a number of purpose-built, mobile Ambilabs Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) across the West Coast, equipped with Aurora™ 3000 nephelometers to accurately monitor smoke and particulates in real time and help authorities manage air quality levels to keep its communities safe.
Accurate planning for pollution control
The Aurora™ range of integrating nephelometers measures the light scattering coefficient of ambient aerosol particles with high sensitivity and time resolution. Its measurement capabilities can be applied to a wide range of air pollution monitoring and climate science research, and is a vital instrument during fire seasons around the world.
“The Aurora™ nephelometer remains the most accurate, flexible and cost-effective way to monitor natural and artificial aerosols in the air, especially during emergency fire situations,” said Andy Tolley, CEO of American Ecotech.
“The data from the Aurora™ allows EPAs to inform populations of dangerous conditions and advise them on how to avoid exposure and when to remain indoors, particularly for susceptible communities so badly affected by this year’s fire season,” he added.