Particulate emissions to air from major incident fires

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Abstract

In December 2005 the Buncefield Oil Storage and Transfer Depot in Hertfordshire, UK, suffered a number of explosions and a prolonged fire. A subsequent review by the Major Incident Investigation Board identified the need to develop a robust mechanism for the monitoring of air quality in such incidents. DEFRA tasked the Environment Agency with coordinating Air Quality Cells (AQCs) which provide the mechanism for delivering modelled and monitored air pollution data for human health impact analysis. AQCs were first deployed in May 2009 and up until the end of 2014, 20 AQCs had been initiated in England and Wales. In this research, a descriptive statistical analysis was carried out on all of the AQC data, showing for the first time the range of particulate concentrations across the life-time of major fires and the implications this has for the environment and human health. Maximum concentrations for PM10 and PM2.5 were 6528 and 653 µg m-3 respectively. Future research investigate the contribution these major fires make to local air quality through an analysis of time-series air pollution data held by local authorities and the impact of these pollution events on human health through the use of existing health syndromic surveillance datasets.

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