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Guide to Ambient Air Quality Monitoring

Overview About Ambient Air Quality Monitoring

Ambient means atmospheric, environmental or surrounding. Therefore when you need to monitor your ambient air quality your efforts will involve systematic and ongoing testing for pollutants in either indoor or outdoor air, or both.

One of the things that research has revealed over the years is that our indoor air quality can be as bad for our health as our outdoor air quality. And since we are spending so much more time indoors than in generations past it is as necessary to test and monitor our indoor air quality as it has been to test and monitor our outdoor air quality.

Since both indoor and outdoor air quality are important to our health it is not enough to just test our air quality occasionally. To improve our air quality and our health we must conduct regular testing and ongoing ambient air quality monitoring.

What is the Importance of Air Quality Monitoring?

With over 8 million deaths a year attributed to air pollution, it is exceedingly important that we measure the amounts of dangerous pollutants, study their correlations with illnesses and deaths, manage areas of concern and find solutions to pollution problems in these hotspots and around the world. The importance of air quality monitoring rests in getting the data necessary to identify what the problems are and where they are most severe so that we can find long lasting solutions that will benefit human health and the health of all living things on our planet.

Already the data collected from various types of air monitoring has given us insights into sources of air pollution, movements of air pollution through cities and communities and patterns of pollution from busy roadways, construction sites and other high pollution sources.

What are the Types of Air Quality Monitoring?

Measuring Your Indoor Air Quality 

When you want to identify indoor pollutants you must consider that one test will not be capable of identifying all potentially harmful pollutants. For this reason it is important to first identify what kinds of pollutants you suspect are causing your symptoms and issues. The EPA lists three different kinds of indoor pollutants:

  1. Biological pollutants: including bacteria, mold, pollen, dander and dust mites. Getting a good idea of which of these you will test for and where to find them in the highest concentration helps the testing process. Test kits are available to take air samples and dust samples.  
  2. Chemical pollutants: such as volatile organic compounds (i.e. formaldehyde), pesticides, PAHs, or other chemicals such as radon or lead.
  3. Pollutants from combustion: carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Sources of carbon monoxide in your home could be gas or wood fireplaces, unvented space heaters (gas or kerosene) or gas stoves. Second hand smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco like products contain over 40 carcinogens and are known to be detrimental to the respiratory health of children. 

Once the pollutants that are causing your indoor air quality problems have been identified, the appropriate types of air quality monitoring equipment can be installed for ongoing testing and monitoring for everyone’s health and safety. All of these efforts will help to keep the costs of your ambient air quality monitoring manageable.

Measuring Your Outdoor Air Quality

Outdoor air quality monitoring will vary widely according to its purpose. Many cities and communities will employ a program at numerous sites in which real-time measurements are taken hourly using automated sensor equipment. This method, known as Continuous Monitoring, is often used by cities to provide continuous and predictive data about air quality for these communities. Typical reports include measurements of common pollutants like:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter 2.5 microns or larger (PM2.5) 

Continuous monitoring is also commonly required at construction sites, landfills, industrial sites and other areas known to produce air pollution, and may include continual measurements for chemical pollutants, combustion gasses, heavy metals and others.

A further measuring step is the use of Semi-Continuous monitoring. In this case, air quality samples are collected using filters or canisters at regular intervals and data is used to develop a 24-hour average baseline that will alert monitors to spikes in pollutants at these sites.


Clear the air for better health with Torrent Laboratory. Torrent offers a full range of air quality testing services for your home, office, warehouse, factory or construction site. We are leaders in air quality testing so you can be assured that we will find any problem pollutants and provide you with expert advice on the best solutions as far as indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring options. Our lab also works with you to evaluate any and all follow up steps that will provide you with long term quality results in your overall air quality and help you implement the specific steps to clear your air.