Up in the air: Measuring pollution

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

New limit values for air pollutants are being announced at European level, which currently causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. We took a look at what this means for Luxembourg and how air quality is actually determined.

At the end of Arthur-Useldinger-Straße in Esch/Alzette stands a small, fenced-in container. The building, which is fitted with an antenna, looks inconspicuous, but it provides information that is important for everyone in Luxembourg.

It is a station for measuring air quality in the Grand Duchy. There are a total of eight installations like this in the country. They are located at various representative locations and analyse our ambient air in continuous operation. "Each station must be representative of a certain area where people live. Here we are in an urban area without a main traffic axis, " says Michel Neumann. Other stations, on the other hand, are located on those same main roads or in the countryside. This makes it possible to get an overall picture of Luxembourg's air quality. Neumann is a chemist and part of the measurement and analysis group within the Environmental Monitoring and Evaluation Department, which is "responsible for monitoring air quality here in the country".

The measurement container in the northern part of Esch is one of the largest in the Grand Duchy. "In this container, we continuously measure dust, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and ozone levels." Several shafts protrude from the container roof, which resemble chimneys but are the exact opposite: They draw in the outside air. Inside the container, things get technical. Several identical-looking devices are stacked on top of each other. "We have a device for each pollutant. They work autonomously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, " explains the environmental administration employee. To measure particulate matter pollution, for example, the air drawn in runs through a filter for 24 hours "just as much as a person breathes in over 24 hours".

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