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air laboratory quality

Air Quality Laboratory

The Canary Islands Air Quality Laboratory is now operating in Fuerteventura.

The infrastructure will detect the levels of haze on one of the islands most affected by these phenomena

Fuerteventura already has a facility that detects aerosols and haze from desert dust that comes to us from the African continent with increasing regularity. The new infrastructure came into operation this past week and depends on a project that began on the islands at the end of last year.

The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), under the Ministry of Science and Innovation, and the Government of the Canary Islands, through the Ministry of Ecological Transition, Fight against Climate Change and Territorial Planning, signed an agreement in 2023 for an Air Quality Laboratory in the Canary Islands, which will study aerosols and desert dust haze.

The project has funding of €2.6 million for the entire archipelago. The part of the infrastructure oriented to the analysis of samples will be located in the facilities of the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology (IPNA-CSIC), while the observation stations will be located in strategic places of the archipelago, in this case Fuerteventura has its own.

Air quality has become a problem of global concern, affecting health, ecosystems and the climate. Annually, ambient air pollution (outdoor) causes three hundred thousand deaths in Europe and four million deaths worldwide, mainly due to respiratory, cardiovascular and cancer diseases, and aerosols, or suspended particles, are the pollutant that causes the highest number of deaths.

These aerosols, once emitted (by numerous sources, such as fires, cars, ships or industry), remain floating in the ambient air in the form of respirable particles, such as PM10 (size less than 10 microns), PM2.5 (size less than 10 microns) or ultrafine particles (size less than 0.1 microns).

Concerns about air quality are on the rise. Just over a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the new global air quality guidelines, while at the end of 2022 the European Commission proposed, just over a month ago, to revise the European air quality directives. Both documents propose reducing the levels of particulate matter in ambient air with the aim of improving air quality and reducing the number of deaths due to pollution.

"The new infrastructure created thanks to the agreement between the CSIC and the Government of the Canary Islands will allow us to know the origin and chemical composition of the particles that are breathed in the ambient air of the archipelago," says Sergio Rodríguez, scientific director of the Air Quality Laboratory of the Canary Islands and researcher at the IPNA-CSIC.

"It will quantify how much emissions from cars, ships, industrial production and desert dust haze contribute to the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 particles in the ambient air of the Canary Islands.

In addition, it will be determined how much of this pollution originates in the Canary Islands and how much comes from surrounding regions, since the desert dust haze is mixed with pollutants (sulphate, organic aerosols and a cocktail of metals, among others) emitted by the North African industry," he adds.

Desert dust haze will be one of the main topics of study in the new laboratory. The variability of the composition of desert dust and other aerosols that reach the Canary Islands will be studied. The infrastructure will also have the capacity to analyse aerosols emitted in future volcanic eruptions, providing a rapid response to air quality crises such as the one experienced in La Palma. "The Canary Islands is the region of the European Union where the highest levels of suspended particles are reached, and it is not due to local pollution, hence the need for this infrastructure," says the researcher.

"Climate variability and climate change are influencing the overall circulation of the atmosphere and thus the patterns and intensity of Saharan desert dust Events. In recent years, the Canary Islands have been affected by extreme atmospheric phenomena, in 2002, 2020, 2022 and February 2023, when extremely high concentrations of respirable PM10 particles have been reached, with average daily values above 1,800 μg/m3, concentrations well above the 45 mg/m3 recommended by the WHO as the maximum exposure limit.
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