Environmental Fallout Dust Monitoring Equipment and Devices

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Publication in Chemical Technology December 2003 Edition. 

Publication in Martin Creamer's Engineering News
magazine, November 2002

Paper written on different monitoring solutions available
(ASTM D1739 and other methods)

Research:  How does vegetation effect fall-out dust?

Information:  How far do dust particles travel?

Information on First Aid for Snake Bites in the Cape Peninsula

Dust Particles and Lower Explosive Limits (LEL) - Instruments

Health and Safety Induction Training Material 



This article outlines a practical method of establishing an environmental dust monitoring programme or even an in-depth investigation to establish sources of dust and quantify (Original text:  quantifying the extent of the dust fall-out) the extent of dust fall-out.

Such investigations can be undertaken at landfill sites, mines, slimes or rock dumps, industrial areas, airports and in villages and towns.

 Monitoring programs can enable operations to determine unsuspected pollutants, determine bacteriological migration from contaminated landfill sites and composting plants or merely to remain well within the legal requirements. The operations will then be able to design and implement effective suppression measures, once the sources have been located.

 The article outlines a systematic approach to the monitoring and sample analysis, offering tips and hints.

With the Environmental Management Bill firmly placing a far greater emphasis on determining and eliminating all sources of airborne or air-carried pollutants and dust, it is vital that a simple, reliable, representative monitoring system (original text: systems) be used at minimal cost.

The airborne sampling of dust using PM10, respirable or total particulate, while being of benefit to the occupational hygienist or health practitioner, offers little help to the environmentalist, as only a small portion of the dust is caught. With these systems only extremely fine particulates are selectively sampled and these could constitute a pollutant level that is only found as a fume or respirable dust. Ideally, the sampling must be continuous with little or no downtime, as the longer the sample, the better the accuracy or representative nature of the sampling.

The following procedure or guide offers a method based on accepted principles and methodology ideally suited to the establishment or quantification of source dust of a variable particulate size, which has proved to be both representative and reliable.

 Study the situation

As a departure point there is no substitute for a detailed site examination, a chat with all of the parties involved and time spent in studying the wind patterns and shape of the dump or plant operation.

 Residents or workers in the area will be able to provide a remarkably detailed account of occurrences of dust, comment on the weather conditions, or even how much they are affected by the emission. It is noted that while the plant or mine management will tend to minimize the effects of the dust to a neighbouring farmer or village, these neighbours in turn will want to make sure that they maximize their discomfort.  Reality usually lies between the two viewpoints.

 Should the prevailing winds constitute a straightforward pattern this needs to be considered when locating the monitoring units.

 Any ambient dust imported upwind of the mine or plant will also need to be studied in order to establish if the irritant dust actually originates at the mines property. It is important that control monitoring of any other possible dust sources be simultaneously undertaken.

 Selection of monitors

In the situation presented, we have selected three 4-way fall-out dust monitors that can each monitor the incoming precipitant arriving from four different directions.

 In contrast to using a hit or miss arrangement of separate open containers and trying to relate the precipitation to the prevailing winds, we note that the most precipitation occurs when the winds slow down or stop rather than while they are blowing at the maximum velocity.

 The selection of three units is based on the premise that at least two will be required to actually quantify the dust loads from the various directions while the third will be useful to assist with further determinations of precipitation rates and alternative prevailing wind directions.

 Positioning of monitoring and sampling

To assist with the rationalization of the case study, please refer to the sketch (Diagram 1) that outlines the mining operation and dump, together with the prevailing winds and positions for the monitors.

Positioning of the monitor units, prevailing winds, the mine, dust and farm.
Positioning of the monitor units, prevailing winds, the mine, dump and farm

Monitor units A and B are positioned upwind of the mining operation and between this and the farm or village. The third unit C will be mobile to enable the position to be varied.

 The combination of units will enable the determination of the movement of dust and particulates around the farm or village and the mine property.

 From a study of the diagram, we note that dust reaching the farm or village from the south will potentially contain dust that has been generated by the mine and dump as well as an import from further upwind of the mine property. While the farmer will be tempted to argue that the dust fall-out emanates from the mine, the latter has a case to reduce their export dust value by that being imported from the south on the prevailing wind.

Monitors will assess the incoming dust regardless of the prevailing wind, and it will be of only academic interest to monitor the wind data, obviating the necessity of putting up a weather station. The variable that might be of some interest is the amount of time that there was a wind velocity of less than 0,5 m/s, but this is not usually recorded by the weather station.

Once monitoring starts, samples are retrieved every two weeks from each unit and thus it is possible to correlate the 12 samples against each other. Results are reflected as a mass per area per day unit (mg/m2/day). Over a period of time the captured data can be plotted to indicate trends, which tend to follow an established sine curve pattern between the rainy and dry seasons.  Any abnormal peaks that could have resulted from unusual activities on the mine can be immediately noted and attempts can be made to identify the events, ie, veld fires, overburden stripping activities that took place, etc.

Establish the Dust Contents or Fingerprinting

Before this stage, all of the work is mechanical and the next step is to start the detective work, if the exercise is to be of any major value.

By retrieving all of the unit B-South results and making up a composite sample of the filters, (make sure that there is enough filtrate to run a comprehensive multi-element ICP/OES analysis) we can now see exactly what the dust contains and the relevant amount of each of the elements present.

 A similar exercise can be done with all of the sample filters constituting the unit-South results. By simple subtraction a good idea of what emanates from the mine can be ascertained:

 Cal 1     Total mass (unit BSouth) minus total mass (unit ASouth) = Dust mass attributable to the mine.

 Cal 2     Total silica (unit BSouth) minus total silica (unit ASouth) = Total silica attributable to the mine.

 Calculation 2 can be undertaken for all of the other elements to build up an indicative fingerprint of what the mine dust contains, especially after the winter winds.

 To further confirm this fingerprint the exercises can be repeated with samples from unit C-East as well as unit A-East. If four monitor units had been installed, this confirmatory exercise would perhaps be slightly more accurate, covering the prevailing winds during the summer periods in detail as well as in the winter.

 Any person undertaking the sampling exercises must also consider other factors as follows:

  • The existence of organic substance traces that may give an indication of the type of pollens evident in corresponding samples from the unit A-South and unit B-South. This often offers more definite proof of the dust origin than the chemical element analysis when mine properties are perhaps inundated with invasive vegetation.

  • As a similar exercise may have been undertaken nearby, it is worth comparing the results to perhaps gain even more of an insight into the ambient atmospheric dusts. Other concerns may have to be approached in order to access any information that they may have collected.

  • Radio analysis of samples can be done to obtain information about the dusts radioactivity.

  • While being far more difficult to assess, it is possible to consider major weather events such as unusual storms in the area or even seasonal events such as the autumn ploughing of the Western Cape wheatlands or the burning of wheat or sugarcane at certain times of the year. These events load the atmosphere in these areas and one can then study the movement and occurrence dates at various monitoring stations downwind for considerable distances as the load is gradually deposited at differential rates and time periods. Short term monitoring will not normally reveal these events but it is worth considering the influence in a monitoring program over a longer period.

  • A natural event such as the occurrence of a locust plague will result in the creation of a central cloud of vegetation fragments that can readily be noted as the product is precipitated further downwind.

  • Where toxic substances have been noted or where these have manifested to any large degree, the potentially exposed persons should be biologically sampled for signs of ingestion.

  • A final avenue of investigative sampling that can be undertaken with the units involves biological sampling for saprophytic bacteria and microbes, which can become airborne from composting plants, farm yards and abattoir holding pens and sheds. There is much conjecture about the possibility of e-coli (bacteria) becoming airborne and redistributing as a fall-out. This is also currently being researched.


With a common sense approach and time, the use of fall-out monitoring can and does yield more information, allowing a far greater and effective study to be undertaken than any other single sampling method. If used in combination with PM10 or total particulate dust sampling, results can be very conclusive.

About the Authors

The authors, Gerry Kuhn and Chris Loans, are actively involved with the monitoring of most of the 120 (original text: 90) stations operating throughout southern Africa.

Gerry Kuhn is an environmental engineer and occupational hygienist who runs the research programme and consults with mines and industrial concerns on a local and international basis. Contact him on 083 308 4764.

Christopher Loans is a chemical engineer (UCT) who obtained professional status in 2001 [addition 2010: and a Master of Public Health degree Occupational Hygiene) from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (December 2007)]. He actively runs the DustWatch program. Contact him on 082 875 0209.

This article was originally published on pages 27-29 of the November 2003 issue of 'Chemical Technology', a publication of Crown Publications cc, in Johannesburg, South Africa (Telephone +27 11 622 4770). 'Chemical Technology' is endorsed by the South African Institution of Chemical Engineers and is published monthly.
Minor changes and updates have been made to the text as indicated.


New dust-monitoring technology developed
Author: Marisa Rodrigues
Portfolio: Senior Features Writer
E-mail: newsdesk@engineeringnews.co.za   

A cost-effective alternative to conventional dust fall-out monitoring technology has been designed and developed by local company Gerry Kuhn Environmental and Hygiene Engineering (GKEHE) and is in operation at numerous mines and industrial sites in South Africa and Botswana.

Fall-out dust is dust that actually settles.

The patented DustWatch fall-out dust monitoring units, which are used where material is conveyed or moved in such a way that fine dust particles are liberated, collect dust samples using the bucket-collection method (an internationally recognised method of determining fall-out dust from various sources).

Fall-out dust monitoring is a legal requirement by the chief pollution control officer, under the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act.

Under this act, all manufacturing concerns are responsible for the dust at the perimeter of the area.

If dust levels measured are above the specific limits, then engineering solutions must be implemented to decrease the fall-out dust levels. DustWatch was developed from concepts rather than designed from scratch as a single stand-alone product.

Development involved much wind-testing and site prototype development.

"Many existing dust fall-out monitoring technologies employ electronics to allow operation of the systems, which we found are difficult to maintain and most have their shortcomings," notes GKEHE principal Gerry Kuhn.

"We saw the need to develop a simple unit, which requires little maintenance to do the required sampling, that can be used anywhere, is cheap in capital cost and can be operated with little training.

"We wanted a unit that could eliminate most, if not all, of the drawbacks of other systems," he outlines.

The provisional patent was registered after almost 18 months of exhaustive trials and, in September, the company's PCT international application was lodged.

While locally-produced twin-direction electronic models cost about R20 000 to R30 000, with additional costs for solar panel and battery-pack installations, the DustWatch unit costs R4 000, says Kuhn. (Addition 2010:  Prices listed are 2005 prices) (Addition 2010: Twin bucket units are no longer produced with the four bucket unit replacing this.  This four bucket unit with two buckets in it will perform exactly like a twin bucket unit)

While the present production mode has been standardised on two or four wind directions, prototypes have been constructed to suit particular prevailing wind patterns, offering three or more directions.

Most imported and locally- produced units use only a two-bucket system.

Kuhn made use of aerodynamics to eliminate grit from the samples and, as a result of this thinking, the unit collection bucket is 2,2 m above the ground.

The units are totally mechanical and are operated by the wind, the direction of which opens or closes the relevant sample bucket to the atmosphere.

There are currently over 60 of these units in operation, predominantly in the Western Cape, but also in the Northern Cape, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Kwa Zulu Natal, Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia.

These are in place on diamond, dolomite, gold and iron-ore mines, cement factories, smelter operations and lime works, as well as at a quarry operation, a foundry and for town import sampling.

The units have been used in ascertaining and quantifying dust import or export, in quantifying dust precipitation models and quantifying dust movement.

GKEHE has also had success in monitoring saprophyte-type airborne bacteria migration from composting plants using the DustWatch units and has had results up to four kilometres from the contamination source.

"We hope to expand this programme using unmodified Dustwatch units, but still need to undertake further research," observes Kuhn.

While the product works well, there was a need to develop the sampling techniques, the dust collection and the development of a software application programme to optimise the value of information collection much of this has been done in parallel with the development of the unit.

Kuhn regards the combination of units together with efficient service and periodic auditing to be one of the most cost-effective methods of dust-monitoring, meeting the requirements of the chief pollution control officer.

A typical dust report issued by the company would include the actual values precipitated on an ongoing basis.

From this, a trend line can be produced with the results viewed against previous months or years, an indication of organic substances and pollen-count can be given, an analysis can be undertaken of the captured particulate and the position of polluting sources can be located and the efficiency of controls evaluated.

'We believe that we have provided a solution to dust-monitoring in its simplest form," explains Kuhn.

Author: Marisa Rodrigues
Portfolio: Senior Features Writer
E-mail: newsdesk@engineeringnews.co.za   



With the ever increasing sophistication in the technology and therefore cost of environmental monitoring putting it out of reach, the need for developing more cost effective and acceptable methods has to become an international necessity if serious attempts are to be made to improve health and the environment.

This paper examines current trends and offers a cheaper alternative following development and ongoing research monitoring.

With production monitoring taking place at over 60 monitor stations Southern Africa wide for periods up to six years, the monitoring technology is presented as a working model.

Without a means of monitoring the pollutant levels we cannot consider whether the condition of the atmosphere or environ at any position is improving or getting worse. We cannot ascertain with any degree of certainty if any place is starting to become a health hazard before actually waiting for the health deterioration patterns to set in without a means of monitoring the area. It is perhaps an indictment of industry and governments that irreversible damage to the health of a residential population or workers is regarded as a time to consider " doing something about the problem" or even only of an indication that "there may be a problem".

We see the deterioration of urban, industrial and residential areas to a point where the persons working and living in the areas have to start dying of pollutant induced cancers, chronic lung diseases and other consumptive causes before actions are taken.

We have fortunately seen a great improvement to direct working conditions with the present and draft legislation covering the health of workers. Occupational hygiene is becoming an integral aspect of every mine, ship, industry and to some extent even within the agricultural industry. The gap between conditions within the working place and the residential area now has to be concentrated on to a degree never considered before and even if this aspect has not been totally legislated or is not being adequately policed, we now have to consider aspects of pollution very carefully if we are to be accepted as suppliers to the developed nations or even as recipients in a trade pact.

  • In the near future mines will have to prove that they 
    are monitoring their emission levels and are doing 
    this to acceptable standards and that they are reducing 
    emissions in a structured systematic way.

  • The science of determining the effect or impact of 
    pollutants on the environment as well as the health 
    of people and animals will similarly have to improve.

  • In the same way industry, whether local or aimed at 
    some export market, will have to unify standards and 
    monitor their emissions satisfactorily.

  • Farming methods will also have to be modified to limit 
    the creation of dust, the liberation of pesticides where 
    these are used and to limit veld-burning operations.

  • Finally, monitoring must be as simple as possible, the 
    equipment cost should not be too expensive and the 
    cost of running a programme as low as possible. In the 
    South African or indeed the African context or other 
    developing areas it is vital that as many persons as 
    possible can be trained to service and run a monitoring 
    programme. A requirement for programmes to be run by
    scientists only is just not feasible.


As this paper outlines concepts associated with airborne pollutants and concentrated on particulate forms of airborne pollutants, we will not consider gasses although some forms of fumes and vapour are considered in some detail, as these can result in chemical reactions within the atmosphere, which manifest as particulates.

With the above in mind it is important to consider what has to be achieved before deciding on the method to be used to carry out the monitoring. Integral to this thinking, the following questions should be asked when embarking on a sampling programme:

  • How does the pollutant cause a problem?

  • What is the problem associated with this pollutant?

  • If the pollutant settles out will it be easier and more 
    representative to measure the fall-out settlement or 
    should the airborne load be determined?

  • If the airborne load is determined, can we accurately
    determine where and under what conditions it will
    settle out or precipitate or even whom it will affect?

  • Can a single means of monitoring be used or is there
    a necessity to employ a multiplicity of methods to 
    determine the pollutant load or concentration?

From the above questions it should then be possible to determine if capture of the particulate must be achieved within the airflow or whether to wait for the particulate to settle out before capturing. To illustrate this important point further let us ask a further question:

Will the particulate fall-out on the ground cause a problem or will it cause a problem while the particulate is in suspension?

Generally the answer to this question will tend to dictate how the particulate must be captured, enabling the best method to be selected.



As the amount of particulate to be captured is very small and the particulate size is also likely to be limited, it is unlikely that any form of cyclonic separation will either be size-selective or will be efficient enough to be of any practical use.

Purpose designed micro-cyclones could however be considered to establish particulate size distribution or to guarantee that size selection takes place.

An example of the use of a micro-cyclone is within the personnel gravimetric sampling train used to establish the extent of respirable dust ingestion on a person sampled for a period of time. In this example, the cyclone is used as a method of removing any particulate of a size in excess of that constituting respirable dust (+ about 8m).


As with the above arrangement given as an example, it is possible to capture the total spectrum of airborne dust with the standard gravimetric dust sampling train provided that precautions are taken to negate the possibility of wind-blown excessively-sized particulate entering the sample - grits or sand. With this type of arrangement it is also important that the capture filter is permitted to catch the sample as evenly and uniformly as possible to prevent increases in filtering velocities or decreases in the sampling flow rate.

The illustrations - Figure A - indicate the requirement of the sampling trains for both respirable as well as the total spectrum dust capture rigs using standard gravimetric dust sampling equipment available on a mine with added precautionary requirements.


The PM10 or sub 10m particulate capture sampling has been in general use for some time, constituting a means of sampling potentially respirable particulates on a longer term basis. The stipulation of monitoring sub 10m particulate superseded the original primary and secondary National Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM) which were promulgated in 1971 (EPA). The original primary standards for PM, measured as total suspended particulates or TSP, were 260-microgram g/m3. The 24-hour average was not to be exceeded more than once per year with an annual geometric mean of 75m/m3. The NAAQS was revised in 1987 with the following criteria changed:

  • TSP was replaced as an indicator that included
    particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less
    than 10m - PM10.

  • The 24 hour primary TSP standard was replaced 
    with a 24 hour PM10 standard of 150m/m3.

  • The annual primary TSP standard was replaced 
    with an annual average PM10 standard of 50m/m3.

  • The secondary TSP standard was replaced with 
    24 hour and annual PM10 standards identical in 
    all respects to the primary standards.

Analysis from monitoring in the United States as well as locally indicates that fugitive dust constitutes about 90% of the PM10 emissions but as most monitoring is undertaken by industry there is some loading of the fugitive dust fraction due to the higher incidence of dust creation from process requirements and materials or ore handling. Only a very small percentage of this particulate manifests as very fine particulate, which led to the requirement for PM2.5 monitoring for fume and smoke particulate capture.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the primary health based PM standards by adding a new annual PM 2.5 standard set at 15g/m3 and a new 24 hour PM 2.5 standard set at 65g/m3 (July 1997). The PM10 standards were not changed.


As already implied above, there was a necessity to scrutinise specific health issues of respirable dusts and fume and the PM 2.5 system was devised.

Of concern in the establishment of both PM 10 and PM 2.5 programmes, especially the latter, there is a degree of doubt as to the accuracy of the available equipment, equating the means of air ingestion physiologically with that of the monitor unit.

Much research went into building pumps and monitoring rigs for PM 10 including aspiration rates, while the 2.5 m filter was achieved using an 0.45m membrane filter in addition to the 8.0 m filter capturing the <10m >8 particulate. The primary induced air was selected to contain only 10m particulate with approved design impingers or cyclones.

Monitoring using the PM 10 and PM 2.5 methods utilises 24 hour sampling on each third consecutive day in order to achieve a form of statistical acceptance. The labour intensive nature of undertaking this operation together with the fact that continuous monitoring is not undertaken as well as the high cost factor leads to an unwieldy expensive system.

At least one South African manufactured unit is available to compete against imported models.


The monitoring of fall-out dust establishes the degree to which airborne particulate is precipitated out and then has an opportunity of exposure to human beings, animals or plant life. This monitoring further establishes a means of studying the movement of most sizes of dust including particulate of a size exceeding 10m, which constitutes nuisance fugitive dust. This larger dust particulate poses the greatest local area influence.

Fall-out monitoring also has the advantage of offering a continuous means of monitoring, negating the need to estimate how representative the results are.

For a greatly decreased cost, multiple position monitoring can take place, forming a good network of monitor stations in preference to only one or two.

Full direction monitoring indicates from which direction the emission is imported and use of multiple units can establish patterns of import and export dust, which is extremely useful in establishing dust sources. Continuous monitoring offers a far greater chance of detecting very low pollutant concentrations.

With the origins of monitoring having been established with the American Standard Test method (ASTM 1739D) there have been several developments in the field and improvements to the original open bucket collection methodology. At least two production units employing the ASTM 1739 method are available locally with both offering merits and demerits.

The system offers an opportunity of sampling airborne precipitant particulate as well as soluble airborne particulate prevalent at the coast and offers with minimal effort, the means of indicating both values from each sample.

The system also offers the potential of biological monitoring.

The system is acceptable in terms of ISO 14001 standards.


With the continuous developments occurring with laser scan technology, several portable instruments offer instantaneous readings of particulate concentration. Once a means of recording the values has been added, the resulting data is of use in establishing area dust concentrations. While such instruments can record much of the information that will enable a good monitoring programme to be run, they only offer a grab sample at best before being transported to the next sampling position where further samples need to be taken. As the instrumentation is expensive, simultaneous multiple sampling is not achieved, leading to doubt about the representivity of the results.

Monitoring positions and the equipment needs to be secure to guard against loss of expensive equipment, rending the method even more costly.

Most units are humidity sensitive, which could possibly limit the use under certain conditions.

Chemical and physical quantitative analysis of dust is not possible with this method.



The DustWatch monitor units form an inexpensive means of monitoring fall-out dust with a minimal maintenance requirement, low sample loss rate, no supervision requirements and all-wind velocity particulate classification to prevent grits and sand capture at high wind velocities. The directionality of sampling encompasses a narrow angle offering increased direction accuracy. As the sample represents a continuous sample taken over an extended time period, the collected material can be subjected to qualitative and quantitative chemical and physical analysis in addition to microscopic organics recognition scanning.

The unit is not affected by rainfall and samples are not lost under abnormal weather conditions.

The units offer fall-out monitoring of either two or four incoming prevailing wind directions simultaneously, offering many monitoring options:

FIGURE 1 Import ambient dust from upwind of a monitoring site together with a corresponding export dust towards the same area.

FIGURE 1 Four bucket units can thus indicate the imported dust from four different incoming sources.

FIGURE 1 Two units located on opposite sides of a site will indicate the imported precipitation arriving at the site as well as the corresponding export from the site in both directions.

FIGURE 1 By extrapolating the import result from one unit with the export result from the second unit, an indication of the exact generated dust can be made. The undertaking can then establish exactly how much of the exported dust they are responsible for.

Uses of DustWatch - Fallout dust monitoring arrangements for different applications FIGURE 1

FIGURE 1 Two or more units can be positioned in line at regular intervals to ascertain the exact extent of dust precipitation from a dump or other dust producing feature or operation, enabling a detailed precipitation model to be prepared.


In order to capture and retain the precipitant dust, the capture buckets are partly filled with a capture medium to which an algaecide has been added.

Once the sample bucket has been retrieved the sample is filtered to remove any large +0.50mm organic particles or insects, which do not constitute dust.

The sample is then filtered through a wet strength nitro-cellulose filter of pore size 1.0m, which is weighed both before filtration and again after desiccation of the filtrate and filter. The mass of captured filtrate is thus determined.

Should the soluble chlorides in coastal samples be required, a known volume of the filtrate water is desiccated and the resulting salts weighed. By calculation the mass of solubles can be determined.

As the cross-sectional area of each collection bucket is known, the precipitation rate per m2 can be determined by calculation and the result indicated in any units to the time weighting preferred.

As most standards require the results to be reflected on a Milligram/day/square metre basis it is preferable to report results in this format.


While it is possible to ash each sample to determine the exact carbon or organic constituent, this is a lengthy process and should rather be dispensed with in favour of microscopic analysis that will permit the analyst to determine the following:

The type of recognisable organic particulate and pollens present, their size as compared to 5m graticle spacing and an estimate of the amount of organic matter. A range of magnifications from 80 to 150 is ideal and an old Konimeter microscope and stage provides an ideal combination of specifications. An estimate of the percentage of respirable particulate can also be made. A cursory scan for fibrous material can be undertaken.

If all of the samples taken over an extended period (say 1 year) are combined to make up to four composite samples for each monitoring unit or station, these can be analysed for a variety of elements as a "finger print" operation. There is usually enough sample, once all of the filters are ashed, to make up a pellet for further analysis. Such quantitative analysis could include:

  • Scanning electron microscopy - SEM

  • X-ray diffraction - XRD

  • X-ray fluorescents - XRF

The latter option permits 36 and 39 element packages to be run on an XRF spectrometer with major elements analysed and reported on as oxides using an energy dispersive X-ray analyser.

A further ICP ME 46A or M analysis can be used in a qualitative capacity but the method has limitations as sample masses in excess of 20g are needed.

Finally for metal recognition with very small samples, the AAGEOBM method utilising flame AAS analysis can be considered.

All of this detailed analysis can be undertaken by several laboratories that specialise in assay, soil sampling and environmental analysis at various prices.


As each sampling period will produce results, these can be added to the previous data and the ongoing hyperbolic trend indicated. Once a year's results have been plotted it is possible to overlay the monthly results as these become available in order to compare the monthly results with those of the corresponding month a year earlier. Similarly annual trend lines can be compared.

The hyperbolic trend curve will thus indicate the degree of improvement or deterioration on an ongoing basis.

A mobile unit can be used to monitor on an ad-hoc basis any area not adequately covered by fixed monitors. The units can also be used for area investigations.

Trend graphs can be plotted from the programme (Microsoft Excel based) that we have developed to chart results from the units under our direct supervision.

In the same way that units on both sides of an installation or dust source will indicate the degree of export of dust, so units along the same geographical bearing can be assessed to establish how dust is lifted from one source to be deposited further along the line and then a further dust source replenishes the load to be deposited elsewhere. In investigations of this type "finger printing" of certain characteristics is required to establish the true extent of travel of the particulate and how dilution occurs over distance.

While we do not advocate that all mines or industrial concerns need to go to the limits outlined above, it is worth considering that the units installed around an undertaking may provide extremely valuable information that could be of use in research work.


As described above the consideration of networking the directional particulate movement can provide extremely valuable information for research of the following nature:

  1. The encroachment of desertification in dry arid areas.

  2. Cross-contamination in multi-product open stockpiles.

  3. The health effects of crop spraying and the re-exposure of persons during other operations involved with the sprayed crops - reaping, ploughing or burning the stubble.

  4. The incidence of allergens and ongoing pollen-counts, which have proved valuable in warning susceptible people in small communities of pending high pollen counts is extremely valuable involving only an additional scrutiny of the samples.

  5. Cross-contamination of industrial concerns that may be exporting dust towards each other.

Finally, much research is being carried out on intercontinental sub-micronic dust migration and African red dust is resulting in the death and destruction of sea corals off the Florida Coast (USA).

While PM10 and PM 2.5 monitoring is proving valuable in establishing the local content of air, PM10 devices ensuring the directional sampling are not producing conclusive results and are subject to local site vagaries without the back-up of extensive fall-out directional dust networks.



The assessment of soluble compounds that are arrested during the capture of fall-out particulate can be quantified if these are thought to be an issue. At the coast the incidence of dissolved chlorides (NaCl) could play a part in loading a particulate result and should the actual captured soluble compounds need to be quantified, this can be undertaken by desiccating a known volume of the remaining catch media and weighing the residue. This can then be related to the actual volume of the catch media remaining after filtration of the sample.

When chlorides have to be assessed the algaecides Sodium Hypochlorite or Potassium Permanganate should be omitted and a shorter catch period used to prevent the build-up of algae in the sample.

Analysis of the catch media for other compounds can also be undertaken using wet chemistry techniques to ascertain the presence of any other soluble compounds, iron salts and the like.


Soluble compounds do not usually play a major part in the quantification of particulate sampling inland and we normally do not include the result after initially commenting on the conditions.

In cases where monitor units are located close to the sea we usually undertake a quantification exercise during the peak summer months and again during the middle of winter to ascertain the mass migration of salt. Each of these values is then considered to be constant. The weighted averages are then included in the import values.


There is little value in networking the results of the mass of the solubles solubles as these masses fall off rapidly with an increase in distance from the sea or saline waters' edge. On the West Coast we interestingly note that traces of salt are found only in the seaward samples, indicating that the salt-laden air precipitates quickly. Correspondingly, a unit located about 2.0 km from the sea-line only has a salt content during the peak onshore wind season.



Although our research in this field has indicated some early promising results we need to do a lot more work to achieve a measure of confidence in our biological agent monitoring.

Our early research followed attempts to monitor the movement of airborne bacteria from composting plants and manure dumps, as we considered that there might be some migration especially during the dry Western Cape summer months.

As we were hoping to keep any bacteria alive for as long as possible, we could not use any algaecides in the catch media; we elected to use sterile filtered water and leave the catch buckets out for shorter periods of time.

Once the buckets were filtered to remove any insoluble particulate we cultured the catch media water in an attempt to locate saprophytes or other bacteria colonies. Approximately 60% of the samples yielded colonies of some sort of bacteria.

When the catch media was dosed with diluted culture nutrient the positive results were considerably higher at over 75%. In most cases buckets facing away from the installations had no trace of colony development.

We have as yet not identified any coliform bacteria but our research programme is ongoing.


The biological analysis work requires careful co-ordination and the micro-biologist should be thoroughly briefed before a similar programme is considered as their input in the research is critical especially with regard to the preparation of the sampling buckets and catch media, which must only be decanted into sterile buckets at the last minute to prevent inadvertent contamination.

The DustWatch monitor unit in each case is also thoroughly cleaned and disinfected for the above reason.


We hope to undertake a dust dispersion exercise in the future concentrating on the effects of topography and vegetation on the actual settlement rates noted. This will form a valuable dispersion model for future work on rock dumps.

The sampling for biological agents needs a lot more work and research.  As part of our research into the movement of bacteria we hope to be monitoring agents emanating from a coastal seal colony as well as the existing work on monitoring the composting facilities already commented on.

We hope to become part of an intercontinental research project quantifying and capturing African dust export in an international venture.



The DustWatch system was developed as an affordable means of providing practical monitoring with features not available in the market place. While they are robustly constructed and early models have now been in the harshest environments for more than five years with minimal signs of major corrosion, other units in operation at corrosive plants have not been as fortunate.  The early primed and painted models definitely lacked the protection of powder coated units, which we have now as standard, but we do note that even the early units that did corrode still operate satisfactorily and some have been painted as a refurbishment exercise.

The design of the selector disk emulates the operation of an aircraft wing; a feature working at wind velocities exceeding 3.0 m/s. The feature results in diversion of any particulate larger than 0.5mm that is wind driven at 3.0 m/s or more over the selector opening. This feature also minimise the capture of grits while the wind is blowing. The collected dust and particulate thus only occurs when the wind velocity falls to a point where precipitation is possible. Under extremely quiet conditions the very fine dust fractions are precipitated as well.

The collection height has been selected with several features in mind. The lifting of +500m material in a 3.0 m/s wind velocity can only in a rare aerodynamic form achieve a height of about 2.0 m. The bucket lips are positioned at 2.2m.

The buckets can be reached for ease of handling by persons of 1.5m or taller. The elevating support cradle locks in position, protecting the buckets, to a degree, from theft or pilfering to a degree.

The selector disk runs on a 318 stainless steel shaft running in a nylon or Vesconite bushing for a longer trouble-free life with a minimum possibility of binding and maintenance. The disc is also dynamically balanced to minimise rotation bias.


As already outlined above, the selector disk achieves the upper size limit of 100m classification.

We have sent numerous samples for a laser scan particulate size analysis with extremely consistent results. An assessment of particulate sizing can also be obtained by examining each filter under the microscope eyepiece graticle, which is graded in 10m gridlines for size recognition.


As already mentioned, the entire concept meets the requirements of ASTM D1739 but this does not cater for wind direction so we have retained the fundamentals of the standard, including the recommended maxima applicable.

In order to meet the requirements of ISO 14001 stipulated monitoring the entire monitoring regimen has to be presented together with standard procedures, manuals, reporting format and traceable documentation. Assistance and detailed operator and assessment training is available and accompanies the purchase of a system.

World Bank standards have similar requirements and the package offered has met these requirements as well.

The Chief Pollution Control Officer of the Department of the Environment and Tourism has accepted monitoring results based on fall-out monitoring and has specified limits based on those applicable in the USA.

The Department of Minerals and Energy, while applying strict occupational hygiene standards outlined in the requirements of the MHSA 1996, have on many occasions sanctioned DustWatch monitoring in line with the Chief Pollution Control officers requirements, especially when exported dust has become as issue.

The PM10 and PM 2.5 monitoring concentrated on by the American EPA has been specifically used to monitor urban populations and is not designed to assess potential import/export dust situations at a local level.

In our opinion no South African manufactured PM 10 or PM 2.5 units meet the EPA standards as outlined in the Federal Register 40 CFR parts 53 and 58.


We have already outlined both the twin and four bucket units manufactured at present as product units.

While we are considering a six bucket unit as a research unit we note that the entire unit has become exponentially larger and more expensive and we are already concerned that the overlap between buckets is likely to compromise the vector principle, further negating any advantages that further points may offer.

Under such circumstances we prefer to install two 4-bucket units with one monitoring the bisection directions effectively indicating 8 incoming wind directions.


While we have already covered the outside agency laboratory work that can be done we offer experience and some good tips to improve the efficiency of the monitoring programme.


The five or six decimal gram micro balances that are available on the mine for personnel gravimetric dust sampling are adequate for any filter weighing.

Masses are taken in mg where possible as results are indicated in milligram units.

With the use of wet strength cellulose filter material, the moisture absorption associated with the filters is minimal providing there is at least a 12-hour acclimatisation period.

Desiccation should ideally be undertaken under ambient conditions, as accelerated desiccation over a warmer tray will result in severe curling of the filter and cracking of the filtrate.

While an allowance of 48 hours is usually made, it is possible to gauge the point at which total desiccation has occurred. Up to this point a filter will lose mass on a continuous basis showing a steadily declining mass while on the balance pan indicating that evaporation of moisture is still occurring. Once the filter reaches parity with atmospheric conditions masses become static.


As all environmental assessment filters are 47mm , the 47 petri slides usually used for the storage and handling of gravimetric dust sampling filters can be used.

Once all of the information on filters has been captured and the filters examined microscopically these can be stored as composites in disposable 65 petri's, which are considerably cheaper and hold up to about 50 or more filters before there is any difficulty closing the lid.

Multi-elemental scans can be conducted annually to a composite sample made up of all of each of the north, south, east and west filters of a single unit to obtain finger prints of the annual input or ambient dust.

Storage after this stage will constitute a mine or industry policy decision.


While most mining and larger industrial concerns have elected to run sampling and monitoring programmes themselves following the initial training and equipping of in-house laboratories, most local concerns have chosen to contract out the entire programme to our laboratory.

Concerns running their own programmes can be audited periodically.

In the West coast and Cape Peninsula areas we run programmes for many concerns - changing buckets, recovering the samples, assessments and the preparation of detailed reports.

In remote areas, where access is a problem, our clients change their own buckets, decanting the filtrate and water into 2 litre re-useable PVC bottles with seal caps. These samples are couriered down to our Piketberg laboratory where the assessments and monthly reports are prepared.

We are appointing part time agents in areas where the throughput can justify the services. The agents undertake bucket preparation, changing buckets and filtrate capture before sending the filters to our laboratory by courier service for final assessment.  They will also carry out the maintenance of the monitoring equipment.


In order to establish monitoring of environmental dust and pollution it is necessary to develop technologies that are simple and cheap and can be operated by unsophisticated communities rather than high tech solutions costing millions to implement with high levels of technical skill and training to operate. It is pointless developing technologies that 5% of the world can afford and can run. Let us rather develop acceptable monitoring technology that 90% of the world can afford and can run. The remaining 10% who cannot even afford this technology can be subsidised by those nations that have the means. The high tech technology can be used to establish the finer points of determinations.

We are currently designing and developing technologies for passive monitoring of PM10 particulates and hope to achieve commercially available production units that will meet the approval of the EPA. With units of this type, monitoring will - in common with the DustWatch - offer particulate capture without the use of electronics, electrical energy and power supplies, enabling the monitors to be positioned anywhere without the necessity for mains power, battery systems, solar or wind generated power installations. This, we feel, will meet the criteria mentioned in the paragraph above and permit greater monitoring where it is required.



With the cost of equipment minimised by mass production techniques, the cost of monitor units within the DustWatch range are between 12% and 15% of the cost of other electrically driven fall-out monitoring systems produced within South Africa. Imported units cost considerably more due to the high $/Rand exchange rate.

Assessment laboratory equipment is largely available on individual mines and additional equipment is manufactured locally or imported.

Sample capture filter material is imported but is inexpensive due to high volume purchases and imports directly from the manufacturer.

Various algaecides can be used successfully and most are available commercially in bulk at a minimal cost.

While distilled water is desirable for capture media preparation most installations are being operated extremely effectively using oxidation/reduction sub-micronic filtration techniques at a fraction of the cost of producing distilled water. With multiple units in the field the changing of buckets can be staggered to allow for the purchase of smaller filter units to undertake the water filtration and to optimise labour utilisation.

A Microsoft Excel-based assessment programme to run the monitoring and generate reports is also available and offers additional time savings.


As already outlined it is necessary for field assistants and air quality analysts to be trained in the techniques involved with the servicing and maintenance of the monitor units as well as the assessment work and report preparation if the monitoring has to be run within the ISO 14001 standards.

A detailed standard procedure manual is made available to all trained personnel as well as documentation for proof of attendance at the training sessions.


Many of the monitoring programmes have been started in an effort to appease lobby groups or as a means of defense from threatened legal action. In many cases the results have initially proved just how bad emission levels from the various concerns were.

As action was undertaken at the various offending dust creation points, so improvements have been quantifiable. The monthly reports have been made available at open-day meetings and in some instances monitors have even been welcomed on adjacent properties as lobby groups are recruited to assist the undertakings by addressing issues of veld burning and ploughing techniques to minimise dust.

The long term monitoring has, in at least one instance, been instrumental in locating unsuspected sources of airborne pollutant generation as well as being a deterrent against the use of unscheduled pesticides in the agricultural areas.

With the present research being undertaken in the biological field we can hypothesise that monitoring biological emissions from fish factories, process meal and other mills will be possible as the "smells" can be quantified.

Similarly composting installations can be monitored simultaneously for both particulate export as well as potential biological agent export.

The monitoring of slimes dams and dumps is already showing some successful results and long term moisture/rain influence research is showing dependable results, enabling timeous spraying to be undertaken.

In conclusion we note that monitoring can result in public relations value in addition to ensuring a social responsibility and improving conditions to workers and staff. The international sales "bottom line" will also be of inestimable value.

We believe the cost is worth it.


  • Federal register Part 1V - 40 CFR Parts 53 & 58

  • Revised requirements for Designation of Reference
    and Equivalent Methods for PM 2.5 and Ambient Air
    Quality Surveillance for Particulate Matter - Final Rule

  • EPA Revised Particulate Matter Standards - Fact sheets

  • Air Quality Criteria for Particulate Matter - 
    EPA 600/P - 95/001af

  • DustWatch fall-out dust monitoring, sampling and 
    assessment procedure manual - GKEHE CC

  • ASTM D1739 - American Standard Test Method

  • Strategy for Landfill Designs in Arid Regions - 
    Anwar Al-Yagout & Frank Townsend ASCE

  • Numerous routine reports & investigative reports


How does vegetation affect fall-out dust?

Carriage of Airborne Particulates
Carriage of airborne pariculates.  Fallout dust dynamics for different particle sizes.

With factors like particulate density and shape playing a major part in the distance that the particle will travel, the above table is only an indication based on testwork with tracer dust.  The height to which particulate is lifted depends on air turbulence, temperatures, humidity, density and thermals which can be encountered.  Vegetation and Bush can impede and capture larger particulates.

Vegetation does not impede travel of dust unless close to source of dust

Trees will arrest greater than 50 micrometre or 50 micron dust particulates up to a height of 10 metres

Bushes will arrest greater than 80 micrometres or 80 micron particulates up to a height above the ground of 3 metres.

Bushes will arrest greater than 80 micrometres or 80 micron particulates.







How does vegetation affect fall-out dust?  How far does fallout dust travel. Click to view an enlarged image

How far do dust Particles travel?

Note that the information provided here is purely to be used for estimation purposes.  If accurate calculations are required, then please look at the original sources.

It is often required to estimate how far dust particles will travel once they are liberated into the air by moving cars, wind, or fire.  

The factors that affect this are:

  • particle size

  • wind velocity

  • height at which the dust is liberated.

Particle size is usually the most important factor because the terminal settling velocity is highly dependent on this particle size.

The information below is taken from the text book "Environmental Engineering in South African Mines" published in 1989 in association with the Mine Ventilation Society of South Africa.  Chapter 12. 1

Sizes of Dust Particles

The geometric diameters of air-borne particles may vary between 0.001 m and 100 m.  The figure below indicates the size range for a few common particles.

The geometric diameters of air-borne particles may vary between 0.001 m and 100 m.

The geometric diameters of air-borne particles may vary between 0.001 m and 100 m.    Click for a Larger Image

From the diagram it can be seen that dust particles are seldom larger than 100 m.

Terminal Settling Velocity - Stokes' Law

The gravitational force acting downward on a free falling sphere is:

d = the geometric diameter of the sphere (m)
Ws = the density of the sphere (kg/m3)
Wa = the density of the air (kg/m3)
g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s2)

The drag forces acting in resistance to the fall are:

= the Velocity of the particle (m/s)

= viscosity of the fluid (kg/(m*s)

If  the motion of the fluid around the particle is symmetrical, the terminal  velocity of the sphere is reached if  G = F.  Equating these two equations  yields:

This is known as Stokes' law.  It applies to spheres of size below that at which their own velocity creates turbulent flow and (NReynolds greater than 1) or in other words spheres approximately less than 250 m.

Click here to be able to determine your own settling velocities.

A unit density quartz sphere of 1 m would require almost 13 hours to drop from a height of 1.6 metres (theoretically).  When particles are very small (less than 1 m) the actual settling could take much longer because of the bombardment by air molecules, which cause random Brownian motion.  In fact particles having terminal settling velocities of the same order as the displacement caused by the Brownian motion will remain permanently suspended, even in still air.  

Air pressure and moisture content will affect the terminal settling velocity to some extent, basically because of the effect these parameters have on the density of air.

For particles with a geometric mean diameter of 0.1 m the Brownian displacement is about 15 times that of the settling velocity.  For particles of 0.01 m it is almost 900 times.  This may also be of consequence in gold mines, as it has been found that nearly 80% of the dust particles in mine air are smaller than 1 m.  These particles may thus penetrate deeply into the alveolar region of a miner's lung.  Admittedly they may deposit in the respiratory tract by impingement or aggregate due to electrostatic charges and cohesion forces to form larger aggregates which will then settle at a finite terminal velocity.

As an aside, the following table is interesting taken from Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook, sixth edition, Robert H. Perry and Don Green, pg 5-64.

Particle Reynolds Number **


0.1 - 5.5

All orientations are stable when there are three or more perpendicular axes of symmetry

5.5 - 200

Stable in position of maximum drag

200 - 500

Unpredictable.  Disks and plates tend to wobble, while fuller bluff bodies tend to rotate.

500 - 200000

Rotation about axis of least inertia, frequently coupled with spiral translation.

Free-Fall Orientation of Particles

** Based on diameter of a sphere having the same surface area as the particle.

Irregular particles on falling, will not take up a preferred orientation as would particles having an axis of symmetry and they may fall edgewise, for example.  The shape and surface of a free-falling particle will thus influence its rate of fall in the sense that the particle will always attain a velocity smaller than that of a smooth, regular sphere of equal radius. 

Dust Particles and Lower Explosive Limits (LEL) - Instruments

Dust particles have a minimum or lower explosive limit to almost no upper limit. Here are examples of minimum explosive limits (oz/ft3): Polystyrene (0.02) Cornstarch (0.04), Coal (0.055), Iron (0.12).

It is important to note that explosimeter gives a reading as a percentage. The reading is based on the percentage of the LEL and not the full concentration of the vapour or gas in the mixture. For example a 50% explosimeter reading of a gasoline/air mixture really translates into 0.7% gasoline (50% of 1.4%, the LEL). It is common practice to consider a 10% explosimeter reading or 10% of the LEL, as a safe working area. When taking explosimeter readings, consider the possibility that the vapour or gas may have accumulated in recessed areas (top or bottom of a tank depending on the density of the gas or vapour).



Minimum Ignition

Temperature C

Minimum Explosible Concentration g/m

Minimum Ignition energy


Maximum Explosion pressure kPa

Max. rate of pressure rise









Coals, 12% volatiles







Coal, 25% volatiles






2 799

Coal, 43% volatiles






13 600







34 000







25 200







74 800

The image below can be enlarged and is duplicate of the table above.
Lower explosability limits.  Explosability of Dusts
Click for a larger image



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