Methods of Monitoring Pollutants and Contaminants

Chemicals, most of which may be described as pollutants, have become a part of our life, sustaining many of our activities, preventing and controlling diseases, and increasing agricultural productivity.

However, one cannot ignore that these chemicals may especially if not properly used or the end products or wastes not properly disposed off endanger our health and poison our environment. Contaminants of biological origin can equally infest our environment and pose danger to our health and the environment.

1. Monitoring of Pollutants in Water

Water is described as universal solvent with the potential to receive almost everything that comes its way in suspension or capacity to dissolve varying chemical elements. In its chemical form, water is two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen (H2O), however, it naturally exists with some trace elements often inert and harmless in concentration.

Pollutants of all description (chemicals, biological agents, debris and even energy) can be found in water as pollutants depending on the circumstances and the events which the water may have gone through before it is sampled for monitoring purposes.

These Viruses are not routinely monitored in water except if there is a cause for doing so especially during epidemic outbreaks. However, viruses responsible for hepatitis, poliomyelitis can be found in drinking water as microbial pollutants and may need to be monitored and if found removed for public health reasons.

Chemicals

Chemicals monitoring in water has become so paramount in modern time due to the preponderance of industries and production activities in the urban centres and the emergence of small scale industries and trades in the rural areas which involve the use of chemicals and related pollutants.

Dyeing, painting, tanning, etc. are commercial activities in the rural areas that generate a lot of chemical wastes that deserve constant monitoring. More than a thousand different chemicals are manufactured every year and sent into the market. Some are simple while others could be complex, persistent and also carcinogenic in nature.

The heavy metals and other priority pollutants are given special consideration in monitoring activity to prevent massive acute toxicity and destruction to ecosystem. Some chemicals even in trace quantities are carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic and toxic to man and other biological substances of economic importance, hence the need to monitor numerous chemicals to ensure that their permissible levels are not exceeded.

The focus of any monitoring of pollutants in water depends on the suspicion or the use for which the water is intended. For example, water intended for use in irrigation may not necessarily be concerned about some aspects of the physical quality like the temperature, silt content, debris, and suspended solids.

However, down- stream water bodies used by local communities for bathing, washing and even drinking need all parameters of monitoring especially where industrial effluents are discharged up-stream with the big question of whether the effluent is properly treated before discharge.

Read Also: Concept and Definition of Pollution

2. Monitoring of Pollutants in the Air

Good air quality is essential to our health and well-being. Poor air can have adverse effects on our quality of life and can damage the fabric of buildings and sensitive flora and fauna.

Air monitoring provides raw measurements of air pollutant concentrations and with appropriate analysis and interpretation; these measurements can be transformed into useful information about air quality.

In Nigeria for instance, we do not possess the appropriate tools and capacity for effective air quality monitoring, however, examples of monitoring and what pollutants are monitored can be drawn from advanced countries thus:

Table: Active Local Authority Funded Monitoring Sites

Monito ring SiteOzo ne (O3)Nitro gen Dioxide (NO2)Sulph ur Dioxide (SO2)Carbon Monox ide (CO)Particu late Matter (PM10)Highe st Pollut ion BandLast Update d
Cambridn/m36 (1n/mn/m12        (1Low17/09/2
ge Gonville Place Low)  Low)(Index 1)012 21:00
Cambrid ge Montag ue Roadn/m19 (1 Low)n/mn/m17        (2 Low)Low (Index 2)17/09/2 012 21:00
Cambrid ge Newmar ket Roadn/m40 (1 Low)n/mn/mn/mLow (Index 1)17/09/2 012 09:00
Cambrid ge Parker Streetn/m15 (1 Low)n/an/m13        (1 Low)Low (Index 1)17/09/2 012 21:00
 Overall Pollution SummaryLOW (Index 2) 
 Very High10 
 High9 
  8 
  7 
 Moderate6 
  5 
  4 
 Low3 
  2 

The outcome of monitoring is summarized as in the table above, which could also be the basis for appropriate actions for control.

3. Monitoring of Pollutants in Soil

How to Monitor Soil Pollution

Figure: Soil Pollution

Landowners need to check if their soil is polluted. Gardeners, farmers, people planning to buy land and golf course managers among others need to know if their soil is polluted. This knowledge lets you know what to plant, what if, any action, is required, and whether you can get organic certification.

Things you will need:

– Distilled water

– Specimen jars

– Small trowel

– Butter knife, surgical gloves.

Instructions:

Research the area in which your land is located to determine which pollutants are a risk factor to your land. Investigate the agricultural environment and the industries in your areas for at least the past decade to learn if there is anything specific for which you need to test.

Draw or print a map of your area and mark a grid of one to four acre squares. Assign each a letter or number code. Write the codes on sticky labels that you will affix to the specimen jars.

Clean your equipment. Contaminated equipment can produce inaccurate results, especially if you are asking for specific, sensitive data. Wash your tools in distilled water.

Collect a sample from each grid square. Scrape off any leaves and use a trowel to collect a sample from about six inches down. Take the same amount of soil each time. The butter knife helps with getting the soil into the jar. Rinse your equipment between samplings.

Complete the paperwork required by the laboratory and send your samples for testing. For ongoing monitoring of pollutant levels, repeat this process at regular intervals. If you discover one sample was exceptionally high in pollutants then retest that square using a finer grid.

Water Treatment Tips & Warnings

Don’t collect your samples after a heavy rainfall. The water will wash some pollutants away and make the soil wet and difficult to work with.

Wear gloves at all times. This prevents contamination of samples and protects you if there are dangerous pollutants at the site.

Read Also: Sources and Management of Groundwater Pollution

4. Monitoring of Pollutants in Food

Now, more than ever, all food chain stakeholders are required to demonstrate their commitment to food safety and quality. In the recent past, there had been outbreaks of food-related events (infection or poisoning) which claimed lives or inflicted morbidity among Nigerians.

The Federal Ministry of Health and the States took steps to controlling the incidences through education and enforcement of standards, inspections, and adequate hygiene of food premises.

The Goal of Pollutants Monitoring in Food:

The Primary goal is to find pathogens in the environment before they contaminate food products.

Secondary is to find spoilage microorganisms in the environment before they affect products and lastly to assess effectiveness of cleaning, sanitation and maintenance of quality standards of food products.

Some of the indicators of pollutants in food are the signs of their spoilage and at the same time the monitoring guide of their standard. These include the following:

– Bulging of canned foods

– Change in color

– Production of odor

– Physical changes in texture

– Change in taste

– Laboratory confirmation of toxins, chemicals and pathogens etc.

In conclusion, Food is an indispensable aspect of our life. It is a major contributor to diseases and illnesses in man if polluted. There is the need for continuous monitoring of the food we eat by public health officers. It is also worth noting that poultry, beef and fish are essential aspects of our food in which antibiotics and drugs are administered in the course of their production.

These drugs could have some effects on our health and body immunity, depending on what drugs are involved and their concentration in the food animal. Food pollution monitoring is very important in the prevention and control of food borne illnesses.

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Benadine Nonye

An Agric. Consultant & a Blogger- National Diploma in Agricultural Technology. - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science. - Master's Degree in Science Education. Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4ProfitsTV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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