Toxic air pollutants, also known as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), are chemical compounds that are known or suspected carcinogens and or mutagens. Emission of toxic pollutants into the ambient air present a serious threat to public health and the environment.
Public Health Effects
Prolonged exposure to air toxics pollutants at ample ambient air concentrations result in:
• Immunological problems
• Neurological problems
• Respiratory problems
• Reproductive problems
Deposition of air toxics into soil, lakes, and streams affect the ecological systems and eventually human health due to consumption of contaminated food. Accidental releases of air toxics into the ambient air in substantially potent quantities can be an immediate threat to human health.
What are Toxic Air Pollutants?
Toxic air pollutants may consist of particulate matter, gases absorbed into particles (diesel emissions, metals, etc.), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) vapors from fuels. Toxic air pollutants are emitted by natural events (forest fires, volcanoes) as well as from industrial and mobile sources. Many household items are also major contributors to air toxics in the ambient air, including paints, cleaning products, pesticides, and plastic foam products.
Many toxic compounds have well established carcinogenic thresholds, and are regulated by industry specific standards promulgated under the Clean Air Act Amendment (CAAA) of 1990. However, these standards only apply to large industrial sources and do not address the vast number of small industry sources and mobile sources which also contribute substantially to air toxic emissions. The reduction of air toxic emissions and the associated risks from all emission sources is the focus of Broward County's Urban Air Toxics Strategy.
Watch the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) video to understand Air Toxics.
Sampling and Analysis of Ambient Air Toxics
Broward County's Environmental Engineering and Permitting Division collects and analyzes ambient air concentrations for hazardous air pollutants weekly in predesignated sites. These monitoring sites were selected after examining predicted high density population areas, high concentrations of industrial enterprises and overlapping high volume traffic activity. Specific toxic pollutants are collected by allowing ambient air to be "drawn" into a "Summa®" canister, at a continuous flow rate for 24 hours. Upon completion of each sampling period, each canister is turned off, tightly capped, and returned to the Broward County Air Toxics Laboratory for analysis.
Analysis is performed in batches using a Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) system. EPA recommended laboratory procedures (TO-15) are used. The analyses provide the type and concentration of toxic pollutant detected.