This page collects resources, questions, and requests related to air sampling. Please edit the page to add information or resources.
Air sampling is a way to capture small amounts of air for laboratory testing. Most air sampling methods involve pulling whole air samples into a bag or container through a vacuum system. The bag or container can then be sealed and shipped to a lab for testing. Air grab samples can be tested for over 100 different chemicals (Louisiana Bucket Brigade).
Air sampling for particulate matter or dust pollution is another type of air sampling. See information on particle sensing on this page.
Types of air samples
Air samples typically fall into one of five categories: indoor air, ambient air, stationary sources (for instance, a smokestack or factory), soil vapor, and mobile sources (traffic). Each type is regulated differently with different sampling methods depending on what you are looking for.
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Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.
The bucket monitor is a low-cost, community-friendly air sampler that helps people measure toxic chemicals such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide in their air. It is an EPA-approved grab sampling method that is significantly less expensive than many other air grab systems such as the summa canister (Louisiana Bucket Brigade).
What it tests: When paired with lab analysis, the bucket monitor can measure up to 101 air pollutants including dichloromethane, hydrogen sulfide, perchloroethylene, vinyl chloride, toluene, and benzene.
The bucket monitor wiki page contains full instructions on how to build and use a bucket monitor, instructional videos and stories from community partners who have used the bucket to advocate for healthier air, plus a community Q&A.
Cost: The bucket itself costs around $100 each but they are re-useable. The lab testing costs between $200-$500 each depending on what you want to get tested. The system also needs to be calibrated twice a year which can cost up to $400.
Video on how to use the bucket from Hilton Kelley of Community In Power and Development Association
Story of West Virginia Chemical Valley Bucket Brigade:
More resources and groups who have experience with the Bucket:
- "Fenceline" film and Bucket Brigade resources
- Louisiana Bucket Brigade
- Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Other types of canisters for sampling
The Summa Canister
The Summa Canister is a commercially available sampling system. It can take grab samples intermittently, or over a period of time. The Summa Canisters are described in EPA Method TO-15, and are commonly used for the collection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ambient and indoor air.
Community use case: The Citizens for a Healthy Community in Paonia, Colorado have used the summa canister for air grab sampling. Here is a publication they put together on “How Oil & Gas Impacted Communities Can Test Air Quality On A Small Budget: A step-by-step guidebook based on the North Fork Valley Air Sampling Program” 2016.
Helium Diffusion Sampler
Helium diffusion samplers are wearable devices that take samples to measure (VOCs) in ambient and indoor air.
Community use case: In 2016, community members in Pavillon, Wyoming participated in a health and air sampling study. They had noticed an increase in health issues locally and were concerned about the pollution coming from the many nearby gas wells. In their exploration of VOCs, they used a FLIR gas camera, Minirea 3000 air monitoring device, an ambient air model, Aldehyde Badges, Summa Canisters and two wearable monitors: HDS (Helium Diffusion Sampler), and Sorbent Tubes. More information on their study, the results and about their community can be found in the "When the Wind Blows" ( permalink) publication by Elizabeth Crowe, Sharyle Patton, Deborah Thomas, and Beverley Thorpe. More information on this study and the groups involved can be found on the Coming Clean webpage here at http://comingcleaninc.org/wind-blows.