How to measure PM levels on my property

Technical questions that one would like posed to experts
(scientists) in fields related to particulate pollution.

How to measure PM levels on my property

Postby smokedout » Tue May 20, 2008 2:21 pm

Is this best left to a professional or is there anything available at the consumer level for measuring PM? We just got through our third winter living next to an OWB, and I need hard numbers demonstrating the pollutant levels present on my property and in my home. Thanks in advance.
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Postby turning_blue » Wed May 21, 2008 7:15 am

Hi there smokedout!

Mary Rozenberg and Woodnyet know a lot about this. Mary knows the exact monitor to use and how to set the calibration. If you have a local pollution group they might have these monitors. But they are complicated and Mary said they can easily be used incorrectly. Mary has experience with this.

Woodnyet showed me this site. ... er2008.pdf

Have you emailed MPA or Ernest? MPA has 2 websites. Ernest has new numbers. Lisa Cummings also has statistics. Read Ernest's recent posts, they're specific to OWB.

Happy to see you one the forum!

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Postby turning_blue » Fri May 23, 2008 12:32 pm

PS FriendofAir knows of smoke detection equipment that can be rented.
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Postby Wilberforce » Fri May 23, 2008 1:15 pm

Mary is much more knowledgeable than I on the subject of wood smoke test
instrumentation, and she knows the scientists who have developed and used
such equipment.

I can't comment on the operation of these gadgets, as I've never had the
opportunity to use them. One thing I can surmise is that this is an evolving
technology. I've seen papers which have been written on this topic, of how
to differentiate between particulate matter types from various sources.

For example, wood smoke has a different chemical makeup than diesel exhaust,
and wood smoke is different than tobacco smoke. Wood smoke and coal smoke
are not the same, chemically speaking. There are even different chemical makeups
between various types of trees, hence the products of their pyrolysis would be
dissimilar as well.

We are still learning.
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Measuring smoke easily.

Postby Ernest Grolimund » Sun Jun 08, 2008 6:08 pm

Hello Smoked out. This is a difficult problem. I had the exact problem so I know. I have searched for a reasonable solution and have not found a perfect solution. The fire dept may have equipment to measure pm and voc's and could come out and measure the pm and voc's. They tried to do it for me without sucess. By the time they got here with sirens blaring, the wind shifted and the neighbor put out his fires. The DEP said portable monitors like that Mary has experimented with are not accurate enough for them despite a $5,000 cost and or $400/week rentals. Mary says she is having difficulty calibrating the portable monitor she is testing. The DEP told me that they have $50,000 dollar monitors and the state toxicologist suggested that the DEP put one up in my yard like a monitor set up in another location in my city. The state is looking for any excuse not to do anything to avoid enforcement costs like cities. I bought a $300 Sears envirosense air cleaner that registers healthy, unhealthy and very unhealthy dust and odors. The legalistic DEP was not impressed but a state rep. was impressed in OWB hearings because I had objective proof that the air at my house was bad. I called labs and found none that could test the air in my area. So, I think the sears air cleaner is the only thing out there. The DEP and Am. Lung scientists think that the dust monitor measures total pm and the odor monitor measures volatile aromatic hydrocarbons but I can't prove it. It only goes off with wood smoke for me and I liked it, but the particle filters and gas filters were overpowered. I got an IQ Air company healthpro plus air cleaner that did a great job for me. My asthmatic daughter was helped tremendously and she was another canary in the coal mine for me. You can photo visible smoke and New Jersey law says any visible smoke crossing property lines is a nuisance by definition. Pm 2.5 is invisible though. The EPA has smoke observing rules such as method 22 that are pretty easy for visible smoke but their opacity reading methods are bad. I have no confidence in the method and have been present at training classes. I didn't want to fork over the $125 fee to get registered as a certified smoke reader. Ask a lawyer if the Sears opacity meters would be good enough for a small woodstove or OWB case. After all, you are not up against a $100 million paper plant. Maybe the fire dept. can lend you a meter for a while. In view of the fact that the Sears air cleaner is the only thing out there that is reasonable for the average person, I think it might be accepted. The nuisance laws do not refer to mcg of pm measured with specific instruments, and the Maine DEP did modelling to come up with theoretical numbers for pm from boilers. Dr. Brown also reported ave pm numbers for house sized old boilers and stoves. He said old boilers and furnaces for stoves from an ave house put out 100 grams of pm2.5/ hr or about 42 mcg/cubic meter in a calm wind inversion which is the worst case. The Maine DEP said the ave pm was 21 mcg . The EPA says the ave old fireplace puts out 75% of the pm that an OWB does or 75 gm/hr or about 30 mcg of pm2.5. A house sized old boiler or stove or fireplace puts out about 2 mcg/ cubic meter of benzene, a class one carcinogen according to my estimates that I checked with the DEP in Maine. Am Lung doctors knew of all this and wrote simple letters saying that in their opinion the boiler next door to me was a threat to life, health and safety. This letter was key for me and for the state legislators pondering an OWB bill.
Ernest Grolimund
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Postby FriendofAir » Sun Jun 08, 2008 9:22 pm

Great information.
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Thanks Ernest!

Postby pm2.5mary » Sun Jun 08, 2008 10:52 pm

It is great to have this info up and available here.

We will be working to get the SidePak monitor up and calibrated. My thought is that way we can 'talk someone through' using a rental. The rentals are available by the day, and they come calibrated, we will have to see how this plays out.

"Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die. " (Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, E Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002)
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More Measuring smoke.

Postby Ernest Grolimund » Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:10 am

My previous blog was the short version of 2 -10 pg reports I gave to the DEP and state governors environmental lawyer. I'm sending Mary the reports and photos and info. Time is limited in these blogs so I can't write a book.

Every city and state is having wood smoke problems and this issue is huge. The politicians do not understand the science and the scientista are dismissed like Bush dismissed the global warming scientists. Engineers are treated like sanitation garbageman; low level technicians, instead of the Einsteins that they often are. The politicans even dismiss the doctors. When legal cases over stoves spend 6 years in court and the settlements get up to $270,000, everyone is afraid of the legal fees. Cities are cutting building inspectors and limiting their powers to save money and every state dept. is trying to get rid of this hot potato because they do no t have the money or experience to handle it. Freedom loving republicans say we've always burned wood, for millenia, but the truth is that 90% of the people instinctively recognize there is a problem and refuse to burn wood even now with high gas prices. Science from the doctors and environmentalists is exploding and showing that smoke is bad but the old fashioned conservatives refuse to accept change. Change came with the lead poisening science. It came with the asbestos science. But change from the environmental scientists comes slow. The tobacco wars took 40 years and billions of dollars in legal fees and we are still in the beginning of this fight. People like Mary started it 20 years ago and are burned out but they have at least another 20 years to go if the tobacco wars and the global warming wars are any example. The laws are there but they are not being enforced. It takes an emergency situation like the OWB's to get action started with legislators, but the problem exists with old IWB's and old stoves or furnaces and even old fireplaces. It also extends to wood fired elec utility plants and school boilers and college boilers. Bush and his administration are pushing for more woodburning to replace oil through the USDA fuels for schools program, so this is a big problem. Old NSPS stack standards are also being followed and they have not been changed to match radically changing ambient air standards. I have tried to talk to senators and representatives in congress but they are not listening so far. They are like Bush. They have their harvard and yale degrees in law or business and they think they know everything because they are geniuses in their own right but they make split second decisions based on old fashioned ideas.

Have to start another blog. Time.
Ernest Grolimund
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Tight houses and decreased oxygen cause more smoke.

Postby Ernest Grolimund » Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:33 am

Last blog, I started to explain the political problems of the wood smoke problem. But there are many dimensions to this. For example, tighter houses infiltrate less air by design to save energy. They have become so tight that fires are not getting enough air to burn properly according to DEP scientists and engineers. That is why the EPA had to mandate engineering changes around 1980 in the last energy crisis to stoves and fireplace inserts. They forced manufacturesrs to supply outside air in a double walled chimney pipe. But this isn't the only problem. It is beyond most peoples comprehension, but NASA says the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere is about one half of what it used to be in the 1700's. Conservatives of coarse will say hogwash It is just one study. It is just one country. There needs to be more study, more confirmation, but at $1/2 million for a study and government cutting taxes, this kind of research is always cut by the republicans and conservatives and the politicians do not understand this and dismiss it as henny penny the sky is falling nonsense. But global warming causes carbon dioxide buildup and nitrogen build up and at the same time carbon plus oxygen reacts to form not just CO but CO2. So it does make sense. We are killing ourselves from the pm and toxic gases and the extra CO2 and decreased oxygen. We are also killing the planet and God is watching us.
Ernest Grolimund
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Re: How to measure PM levels on my property

Postby MargretRemsen » Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:47 am

I think such matters should be left for the professionals to carry out. Its easy to do stuff on our own but such matters are risky and professionals are trained and experienced to handle all situations
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