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Levels of selected gaseous pollutants in ambient air in the vicinity of a chemical industry, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe
The integrity of natural air has been compromised due to the deposition of chemical, biological and particulate substances from natural and anthropogenic sources. Adverse health consequences arising from the exposure of plants, animals and human to elevated atmospheric concentrations have been reported severally. The ambient baseline levels of many air contaminants in urban and industrial layouts of many Africa cities, especially Zimbabwe have not been fully characterized. Information on levels of these contaminants and their real time variability is therefore scarce and scanty. In this study, the ambient air concentration levels of selected gaseous pollutants in the vicinity of a fertilizer production facility in Zimbabwe were investigated. Nine sampling stations were systematically and randomly identified for the measurement of selected air pollutants (SO2, NO2, and NH3) the fertilizer production factory to capture air quality data on all wind directions. The electrochemical Drager Sensors which rely on electrochemical measuring transducer for measuring concentration of gases under atmospheric conditions was used for the measurement of NH3, SO2, and NO2. The ambient air monitored was allowed to diffuse through a membrane into the sensor liquid electrolytes, containing a sensing electrode, a counter electrode, a reference electrode, and an electronic potentiostat-circuit which ensures constant electrical voltage between the sensing electrode and the reference electrode. The flow of electrons, generated by the reaction is proportional to the concentration of the measured gas. The observed concentrations of NH3, SO2, and NO2 measured within and around the study site were very variable. Levels of NH3 ranged between 0.36 - 7.36 ppm; corresponding values for SO2 and NO2 were 0.02 - 84.61 ppm and 0.61 - 34.78 ppm respectively. These concentrations were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than measured (NH3; 0.01 - 0.05 ppm: SO2; 0.03 - 0.18 ppm: NO2; 0.17 - 1.30 ppm) at the control sampling station about 5 km from the industry. Isokinetic and dissipation of the measured gases, governed by the processes of molecular diffusion and convection, confirmed a common pattern of distance dissipation. Thus, the cloud concentrations of NH3, SO2, and NO2 within the facility were higher than observed distances away from the fertilizer factory.