Critical Review

The 47th Annual A&WMA Critical Review

Air Quality Measurements—From Rubber Bands to Tapping the Rainbow 

by George. M. Hidy, Peter K. Mueller, Samuel L. Altshuler, Judith C. Chow, and John G. Watson
Tuesday, June 6, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom B 
Air quality measurements are an essential part of environmental protection. From the first observations of visible smoke to application of portable mass spectrometers, accurate and precise measurements have facilitated good policies that have cost-effectively reduced adverse effects of environmental pollution. Essentially, good science has enabled good policy. Modern computers and electronics are allowing a broader range of pollutants to be measured by smaller, lower power, and cheaper devices. Several citizen science websites have been established to involve the general public in contributing to and consuming air quality information. The rapid availability of real-time measurements at air quality sites has improved forecasts and allowed citizens to make informed decisions about their daily activities.
The 47th Annual A&WMA Critical Review takes a historical look at the evolution and application of air quality measurements, with special emphasis on the contributions made by members of the Air & Waste Management Association over its 110-year history. The Review traces criteria pollutant gases and particles from their original discovery through their detection by material degradation, reactions with solutions, gravitational settling, and filter sampling through modern detection systems that are widely deployed today. The Review emphasizes the importance of a measurement system that goes far beyond the mere hardware used for the measurements. It emphasizes the need for calibration and performance standards, internal and external audits, data validation procedures, advanced data bases, and internet-based data delivery systems. The Review laments the fact that many costly, and still potentially useful, data sets have been lost owing to a lack of commitment to long-term data repositories.
A&WMA is especially fortunate to have five long-term members of its Critical Review Committee as authors of this Review. These contributors have a combined experience of more than 200 years in air quality measurements, modeling, and emission reduction strategy development. This is the third Critical Review led by Dr. George M. Hidy, who also authored the 1984 and 2010 Reviews. Dr. Hidy is a long-term A&WMA member, a former Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA) co-editor, and a pioneer in early aerosol characterization studies in southern California and the eastern United States. The Review is informed by Dr. Peter K. Mueller, A&WMA’s longest continuous member (65 years) and another pioneer in air quality measurements. Dr. Mueller’s experience extends from the early days of impingers and color-changing paper to the automated systems in place today, beginning with his service at California’s Air & Industrial Hygiene Laboratory in the 1950s.
Drs. Hidy’s and Mueller’s careers span the entire development of modern air quality measurement science. The importance of measurements for policy decisions benefits from the experience of Mr. Samuel L. Altshuler, who spent a career on pollution issues at Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California and served 15 years on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Advisory Council. Dr. Judith Chow is a measurement expert who authored the 1995 Critical Review on this topic and provided several decades of innovation related to particulate matter sampling and analysis. Finally, Dr. John G. Watson, who has been a continuous Critical Review Committee member since 1982, and authored the 2002 Critical Review, identifies many of the important contributions made to measurement science by A&WMA members through JA&WMA, specialty conferences, and the annual meeting and exhibition.
Invited Discussants
Following the presentation, a panel of invited experts will critique the presentation and offer their views on the topic.
This year’s invited discussants are:
Sara Head, Yorke Engineering
Ralph Morris, Ramboll Environ Inc.
Eric Stevenson, Bay Area Air Quality Management District
John Watson, Desert Research Institute
Join the Discussion
Comments also will be solicited from the floor and from written submissions to the Critical Review Committee Chair. The Chair will then synthesize these points into a Discussion Paper that will be published in the October 2017 issue of JA&WMA. Comments should be submitted in writing to Dr. Michael T. Kleinman, Critical Review Committee Chair, at by no later than July 31, 2017. The full-length review will be published in the June 2017 issue of JA&WMA.
Get Involved
Get involved with the Critical Review Committee and help further our scientific understand by attending the Annual Meeting of the Critical Review Committee on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at 3:00–4:00 p.m. Room: TBD.
2017 Critical Review Committee
Michael Kleinman, Chair
Samuel Altshuler, Vice Chair
George Hidy, Past Chair (2009–2012)
Judith Chow, Past Chair (2001–2008)
John Watson, Past Chair (1994–2000)
Christina Akly
John Bachmann
Patricia Brush
Prakash Doraiswamy
Stanley Hayes
Naresh Kumar