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Environmental sampling

Many chemicals, when released into the environment, may cause serious environmental damage and affect human health. Chemical incidents such as spillages, transport accidents and large fires can introduce a range of chemicals into the environmental. Environmental sampling and monitoring can be a vital component to any risk assessment for determining the consequences on human health.

In an emergency situation rapid and timely environmental monitoring can be very difficult and there is often an urgent need for measurements to help inform the investigation and aid public health assessment. CHaPD has developed a basic environmental monitoring capability that, in the event of a major incident, can be mobilised to assist any risk assessment. The strategy adopted by CHaPD is a "quick and simple" methodology, one which is not intended to replace more precise systematic surveying, but nevertheless provide valuable information. It is not intended to be a highly technical bespoke environmental monitoring resource which would replace the responsibilities of other agencies but rather an 'in-house' capacity that could be mobilised in the absence of any other form of environmental monitoring.

The sampling strategy is based on the collection of samples using very simple, basic environmental grab sampling techniques. Samples are then transported to laboratories for analysis and interpretation. For emergency field situations, grab sampling is a viable option as it can minimise the amount of time staff will spend in potential hazardous situations.  It also has the added benefit of being easy and simple to collect, of low cost, requires minimal resources and samples should be relatively easy to transport. Grab samples also document contamination at a specific point or location which can be later investigated in more detail by more specialist monitoring teams.

CHaPD has so far concentrated on simple grab sampling of air, soil or herbage for later analysis at a suitable laboratory.  The surface layer of soil (0 - 5cm (max 10 cm)) can reflect the deposition of airborne pollutants, especially recently deposited pollutants from fires or atmospheric releases. Pollutants that do not move downward because of attachment to soil particles can also be analysed. Similarly, herbage can reflect recent atmospheric deposition. Very shallow pollution can be easily sampled by the use of an auger, while herbage samples can be relatively easily collected using gardening sheers.  In order to obtain such samples, CHaPD has developed a series of sampling kits to collect, store and transport samples of soil and herbage. CHaPD also has air sampling equipment and a number of sequential tube air samplers and associated apparatus, for deployment in the field during and after a chemical incident. This system can be deployed at incidents by CHaPD staff to provide unattended air sampling of a range of volatile organic chemicals. The analysed samples could assist with the provision of advice to the general public.