Monday, July 15, 2024
Environmental Management

Concept and Strategy for Air Quality Management

Air pollution is perceived as a serious problem. The emission of certain pollutants into our atmosphere has gradually increased over the years. The quality of our ambient air impacts on both humans’ and animals’ health and the environment.

Air quality management aims to limit negative impacts through a variety of activities, including legislation, policies, and plans to manage emissions and monitor ambient air quality.

An air pollutant for which certain levels of exposure have been determined to injure health, harm the environment and cause property damage.

The EPA-developed the standards known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, using science-based guidelines as the basis for setting acceptable levels.


Air pollutants exhausted from a unit or source into the atmosphere.


Environmental Protection Agency, federal agency that oversees the protection of the environment.


An incident occurring when the concentration of a pollutant in the ambient air is higher than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


Hazardous Air Pollutants.

Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer

A 1987 international agreement subsequently amended in 1990, 1992, 1995, and 1997 that establishes in participating countries a schedule for the phase out of chloroflourocarbons and other substances with an excessive ozone depleting potential.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Standards established by the EPA and required by The Clean Air Act (last amended in 1990) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.

Nitrogen oxides

A group of highly reactive gases, all of which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts. Many of the nitrogen oxides are colorless and odorless.

However, one common pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), along with particles in the air, can often be seen as a reddish-brown layer over many urban areas.

Non attainment areas

Defined by The Clean Air Act as a locality where air pollution levels persistently exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards or that contributes to ambient air quality in a nearby area that fails to meet standards.

Non attainment

EPA designation that an area does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


Nitrogen oxides.


A triatomic molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms. Ground-level ozone is an air pollutant with harmful effects on the respiratory systems of animals.

On the other hand, ozone in the upper atmosphere protects living organisms by preventing damaging ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface.

Particulate matter (PM)

The sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air, many of which are hazardous.


A chemical process by which molecules are broken down into smaller units through the absorption of light.


Particulate Matter less than 10 micrometers (or microns) in diameter.


Particulate Matter less than 2.5 micrometers (or microns) in diameter.


Parts per billion by volume.


Parts per million by volume.

Primary air pollutants

Pollutants that are pumped into our atmosphere and directly pollute the air. Examples include carbon monoxide from car exhausts and sulfur dioxide from the combustion of coal as well as nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter (both solid and liquid).


Atomic or molecular species with unpaired electrons on an otherwise open shell configuration. These unpaired electrons are usually highly reactive, so radicals are likely to take part in chemical reactions.

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Secondary air pollutants

Pollutant not directly emitted but forms when other pollutants (primary pollutants) react in the atmosphere.

Examples include ozone, formed when hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine in the presence of sunlight; NO2, formed as NO combines with oxygen in the air; and acid rain, formed when sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides react with water.


A kind of air pollution; the word “smog” is a combination of smoke and fog. Classic smog results from large amounts of coal burning in an area and is caused by a mixture of smoke and Sulphur dioxide.

Source or stationary source

Any governmental, institutional, commercial or industrial structure, installation, plant, building or facility that emits or has the potential to emit any regulated air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Statutory Air Pollution

The discharge into the air by the act of man of substances (liquid, solid, gaseous, organic or inorganic) in a locality, manner and amount as to be injurious to human health or welfare, animal or plant life, or property, or which would interfere with the enjoyment of life or property.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapour pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.

Concept of Air Quality

Basic principles guide international and national policies for the management of all forms of air pollution. An important global initiative occurred in 1983 when the UN General Assembly established the World Commission on Environment and Development.

The report produced by the Commission, Our Common Future, was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1987. It has been influential in bringing environmental issues into the global arena, and in expressing influential concepts in air quality management (WCED 1987).

The Brundtland Commission suggested that sustainable development would be required to meet the legitimate aspirations of the world population without destroying the environment.

It defined sustainable development as: ―development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This concept has been embraced as an apparent means of integrating environmental policy and economic development. A number of environmental management principles on which some government policies are based, including air quality management include:

The precautionary principle – where it is clear that a proposal will damage the environment, action should be taken to protect the environment without awaiting scientific proof of damage.

The polluter pays principle– the full costs associated with pollution (including monitoring, management, clean-up and supervision) should be met by the organization or person responsible for the source of the pollution.

In addition, many countries have adopted the principle of pollutionprevention; which aims to reduce air pollution at sources.

Strategy for Air Quality Management

Air quality management encompasses all the activities a regulatory authority undertakes to help protect human health and the environment from all the harmful effects of air pollution. The goal of air quality management is to maintain a quality of air that protects human health and welfare.

This goal also includes protection of animals, plants (crops, forests and natural vegetation), ecosystems, materials and aesthetics, such as natural levels of visibility (Murray 1997). And to achieve this air quality goal, it is necessary to develop appropriate air quality policies and strategies.

A government institution typically establishes goals related to air quality. An example is an acceptable level of pollutant in the air that will protect public health, including people who are more vulnerable to air pollution.

Government policy is the foundation for air quality management. Without a suitable policy framework and adequate legislation it is difficult to maintain an active or successful air quality management program.

Policy Framework in Air Quality Management

A policy framework refers to policies in several areas, including transport, energy, planning, development and the environment.

Air quality objectives are more readily achieved if these interconnected government policies are compatible, and if mechanisms exist for coordinating responses to issues which cross different areas of government policy.

Measures adopted in many developed countries for integrating air quality policy with health, energy, transport and other areas are summarized in a report of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE 1999).

Goals of Air Quality management

The complete scheme of relevant interrelationships in air quality management is depicted in Fig. 1.3. Air quality management has the ultimate goal of avoiding health and environmental impacts of air pollution. If man-made air pollution had no effects whatsoever, people would not care.

Thus all the instruments developed for air quality management such as emissions inventories, dispersion modelling, or concentrations inventories, only serve to enable decision makers to develop legislation and regulations needed to avoid detrimental effects on public health and the environment.

The instruments mentioned are, therefore, tactical tools in air quality management, while health and environmental preservation are to be grounded in goals and objectives of air quality management.

Emissions inventories, concentration measurements, dispersion models and other tools of air quality management are, therefore, never end in themselves; the ends are human health and a healthy environment.

Air Quality
Figure1.3. Scope of air quality management

Data of known quality obtained from the tactical tools of monitoring and assessment in air quality management are used to generate information for decision makers and the public, which leads to political decisions and the formulation of policies appropriate to prevent adverse impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment.

Also under this aspect of policy formation, health and environment have the prominent role of defining the objectives of policies and regulations. (It should be noted that the information necessary for politicians is created from – data of known quality‖ and not necessarily from data of high quality, which although most desirable cannot always be obtained under the conditions of many developing countries).

In summary, the overall aim of air quality management is to maintain a quality of air that supports public health. This is achieved by developing legislation and regulations from data of known quality that will forestall air pollution that can cause detrimental effects on public health and the environment.

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Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with several years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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