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Measurement of environmental pollutants using passive sampling devices – a commentary on the current state of the art

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Passive sampling devices have been used since the 1970s to measure time-weighted average (TWA) or equilibrium concentrations of pollutants in various environmental matrices (e.g. air, soils and sediments and water). In recent years the popularity of using such samplers has increased and the technology in now well established for the measurement of atmospheric pollutants. This sector has a long experience of using passive samplers in the short- and long-term assessment of air quality in the local environment and on a global scale (e.g. within the United Nations Stockholm Convention on the trans-boundary movement of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) where large networks of samplers on a continental scale have been established). In comparison, the use of passive samplers for monitoring the aquatic environment has been slower to take off. There has, however, been a recent research drive to develop devices for measuring the wide range of pollutants that can be found in environmental waters (e.g. ground, surface, and marine). It is now being recognised that passive samplers can play a valuable role in monitoring water quality within a legislative framework such as the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD). The data from these devices can be used alongside the results obtained from conventional spot or bottle sampling to improve risk assessments and to inform decisions on undertaking potentially expensive remedial actions. Such monitoring techniques may have uses within the European Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals (REACH) Directive and the forthcoming European Marine Strategy Directive. It is expected that the aquatic monitoring sector will follow a transition similar to that which occurred in air monitoring where data obtained from passive samplers can use used within a legal framework. There has also been increased interest in extending the role of passive samplers to both the measurement of equilibrium concentrations and investigating the movement and release of the dissolved fraction of various pollutants in the pore water of sediments and soils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2979-2982
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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