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Mobile VOC Monitor PTR-TOF QB deployed to map smoke plume

UiO's IONICON PTR-MS laboratory tracks impact of toxic organic gases

Landfill fires occur frequently and toxic emissions from such fires often constitute a major public health concern. In the outskirts of Stockholm, a 100,000-ton landfill has been on fire since Christmas 2020, with dense smoke spreading to nearby residential areas and more distant urban settlements. Stockholm’s Environment and Health Administration observed high particle levels in the most severely impacted communities, but toxic organic gases are more difficult to measure, especially when the source is near and concentrations change rapidly within the moving plume.

When being contacted by their Swedish colleagues, researchers from the University of Oslo (UiO) in Norway offered rapid help, overcoming closed borders and deploying their new mobile PTR-MS laboratory to Sweden. On two consecutive days, the IONICON PTR-TOF QB real-time VOC analyzer aboard the hybrid SUV mapped air pollution levels in the immediate vicinity of the fire and in the nearby villages, thereby determining what type of toxic organic gases are predominantly released from the landfill fire and what concentration levels the fire response team and the population are exposed to.

The measurements revealed high concentrations of benzene and styrene, as well as of other substituted aromatic and polyaromatic compounds. Other hazardous air pollutants detected in the landfill fire plume include formaldehyde and organic cyanides. The mobile PTR-MS laboratory, supported by IONICON Analytik Austria, turned out to be a key element in the response to a major environmental emergency in Sweden.

IONICON provided a small and lightweight version of the PTR-TOF 1000 real-time trace VOC monitor for this important, time-critical measurement campaign. The PTR-TOF QB allows for a straightforward integration for urgent deployment into makeshift mobile labs such as regular passenger cars. Of course, the PTR-TOF QB can also be integrated in existing 19" racks of professional air quality monitoring vans.

University of Oslo's mobile PTR-TOF lab chasing toxic organic gases emitted by a landfill fire near Stockholm. Image by M. Norman, SLB-analys
Real-time PTR-TOF data of increased benzene concentrations, downwind of the burning garbage site. Image by University of Oslo