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Patrick Thompson helps Canada Measure Volatile Organic Compounds

Are you curious about ambient air quality monitoring at Environment and Climate Change Canada?   

Patrick Thompson holds an ambient air quality monitoring canister used in the National Air Pollution Surveillance Program.


Patrick Thompson, Chemical Technologist at a ECCC science facility in Ottawa, Ontario, makes sure the six- and three-litre monitoring canisters  are ready to capture volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, to monitor ambient air quality across the country as part of the National Air Pollution Surveillance Program (NAPS). NAPS is a federal-provincial-territorial program that delivers data and trend analysis related to air quality in major urban areas and some rural locations or smaller communities impacted by local sources.

One of Pat’s many duties is to ensure these canisters are free of contaminants by heating them to 75°C in order to bake out air pollutant residues, so they can be reused across Canada. He maintains a rigorous schedule when he is preparing for their shipment across Canada.

Environment Canada is interested in VOCs as these carbon-containing gases and vapors can result in the formation of ground-level ozone, a main component of smog. These pollutants are emitted to air by both natural sources (vegetation, forest fires) and from human activity such as emissions from the oil and gas industry, solvent usage, and transportation sources. Although natural sources of VOCs emissions are larger overall, human-made sources are the main contributors of VOCs in urban areas.  

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