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Improved air pollution and worker exposure monitoring and control through the development of a near real time benzene specific gas analysis & measurement instrument (BEN-DET)

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Getting a measure of air pollution

Emissions have a severe health impact on European citizens and cost EU health systems and economies tens of billions of euros. Combating pollution like this requires accurate, timely and cost-effective measurement technologies.

Climate Change and Environment

In the EU, air pollution harms human health and causes tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year. One particularly serious indoor air pollutant is benzene. This hydrocarbon is used in many industrial processes making detergents, oils, lubricants, dyes and paints, certain types of rubber, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fibers and is released from tobacco smoke. the pollution caused by the benzene production process results in well over 10 000 deaths a year. As part of efforts to control air pollution, EU legislation requires the measurement of emissions through pumped sampling on a sorbent cartridge followed by gas chromatographic determination. The problem with this method is that the samples have to be collected and transported to a laboratory for analysis. This time-consuming and fairly costly process risks sample degradation, only provides a snapshot in time, and has a long delay between sample collection and results. BEN-DET, a project funded by the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) as part of its drive to promote research led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), came up with an innovative solution. The project developed a hand-held, benzene-specific, integrated measurement instrument. The technology is based on a state-of-the-art photo-ionisation detector (PID), in combination with a novel inert polymer-based micro pre-concentrator and gas chromatographic column. The project investigated, developed and trialled various options for moulding polymers, casing, cost-efficient methods for measuring temperature without temperature sensors, carbon filtre and PID. These were integrated into an effective prototype portable measuring instrument. The BEN-DET detector brings a number of advantages to the global fight against air pollution. It can tell the difference between benzene and other similar hydrocarbons, and employs GPS to track and record readings automatically, securely and remotely.

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