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Trends in Environmental Problems and Monitoring Technologies -- Ryozo Goto

Trends of environmental problems and monitoring technologies


DKK-TOA Corporation, Chief of Product Development section

International trends in environmental problems

Human beings have had substantial influences to environment in the process of surviving. These influences were once purified by the balance of nature, and the environment had been kept undestroyed. But the load human beings give to the environment has become too much since the industrial revolution, which ended up causing various environmental problems.

At first, I would like to follow the history of environmental problems.

Increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide due to the consumption of fossil fuels caused global warming, and various chemical matters human beings produced have contaminated the earth. Though American zoologist RACHEL CARSON warned in her book °»SILENT SPRING°… published in 1962 about the harm of various chemical matters and agricultural chemicals human beings produced, as everyone knows, many kinds of toxic chemicals have since been discharged. As a result these damages changed from local to wide area, from particular conditions to general conditions about the victim and the assailant.

In such background, the first international conference about environment, United Nations Conference on Human Environment, Stockholm, was held in 1972. After earnest discussions, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) was founded to carry out various activities. °»OUR COMMON FUTURE,°… reported by °»the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)°… founded in 1984, published that the key to solve environmental problems is activity based on the concept of °»SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT,°… i.e. it is important to meet the needs of current generation without losing the ability to meet the needs of future generation. In the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Earth Summit, 1992, this concept was focused. In this Earth Summit, a way of thinking about environmental problems and concise activity plan was mentioned in the adoption of °»Rio Declaration on Environment and Development°… and °»Agenda 21.°… °»Common but differentiated responsibility°…, i.e. the responsibility of each country that has different interest, was advocated for the realization of sustainable development.

In a Special Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGASS, 1997), °»Agenda 21°… was checked and evaluated. But regrettably global environmental condition had become worse, so only intensification of attempts toward realization and important points were confirmed. However, in the comprehensive review by United Nations (Rio+10, 2002), positive summation and new action are expected.

Provisions of Japan against environmental problems

Next, let°«s go on to the subject of Japan°«s environmental provisions.

Basic pollution provision law, which was abolished in 1993, was enacted in 1967 when the attitude to pollution was revealed for the first time while pollution problems occurred and became serious. Then environmental standards that should be accomplished as a nation were revealed and various environmental provisions were carried out as well as Air Pollution Control law, Water Pollution Control Law, etc were enacted and environmental water quality standard was established.

In 1993, Basic Environment Law was enacted after the Earth Summit, and the environmental principle of our nation was established. In this law three points of view were mentioned; blessing and succession of the environment, construction of society with sustainable development and less environmental pollution, and aggressive promotion of environmental preservation by international coordination. Fundamental plan based on this Basic Environmental Law was laid down, which was reviewed in 2000. As a long-term objectives, four viewpoints were mentioned:°°environmentally sound material cycle, harmonious coexistence, participation, and international activities. Eleven fields such as global warming measure were decided as the fields we should focus on in the beginning of the 21st century.

The current state of environment monitoring technologies

Let°«s go on to the overview of current environmental monitoring technology.

In case of drainage from each company, drainage control based on a standard, such as a control of polluted organic substances associated with eutrophication and a control of toxic matters including heavy metals, and environmental monitoring are implemented. When monitoring the environment of rivers or lakes, pollution related to our daily life such as polluted organic substances is focused. Recently agricultural chemicals and volatile organic substances tend to be included in these monitoring points. Agricultural chemicals and volatile organic substances are measured in laboratories after sampling in the field because of their very low density and difficulty of unsophisticated analysis. In this case, the important points are position information, time information, and historical data, i.e. when, where, and how they are sampled. They are analyzed with high-resolution mass spectrometry equipment such as LC/MS and GC/MS.

In case of checking basic monitoring items, unsophisticated analysis methods including electrode method and colorimetric analysis, and automated chemical reaction equipment have become widespread, and they are used efficiently on automatic monitoring or field examination. Standard measurement method of BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) that are organic pollution indicators are defined properly. In correlation with these method equipment that is available for field examination or automatic monitoring are selected adequately. For example, UV absorption method, colorimetric analysis by low-temperature oxidation, and hybrid method between immediate heating and coulometric titration are available instead of COD, which is the method that determines the demand quantity of potassium permanganate by titration when organic substances are oxidized and resolved with potassium permanganate.

Besides electric conductivity, pH, and dissolved oxygen are measured by electrode analysis, and turbidity, chromaticity, and chlorophyll are measured using light in the field. Nitrogen and phosphoric acid are measured with reagent package and compact absorption photometer. Precision measurement method after sampling is also used currently.

Future works for environment monitoring

Various equipments are used according to the monitoring location or method such as field, laboratory, and automatic monitoring including mounted systems and fixed monitoring stations. In the future, analysis equipment for laboratories will be adapted to field examination or automatic monitoring.

When the system that these data are integrated and analyzed in a key station is constructed, it will be important that what kind of information is needed, how accurately the equipment is controlled, and how differences of accuracy are reflected to the data. Especially, in case of field examination, to secure the reliability of data is important because specialists of analysis alone don°«t perform the measurement. Utilization of measurement data by educational institutions or NGO organizations is preferred because it can increase the number of measurement data and interpolate the result measured by fixed monitoring station or precision measurement.

In this case, ideas to decrease personal equations including simplifying the measurement and low-cost device supply are necessary. Besides necessary data including position information and time information should be added automatically without manual input. Measurement itself should not impact the environment, for example by minimizing the quantity of reagent, energy saving, and adaptation to recycle system. Reliability of data, remote sensing, intensification of the self-diagnosis function, and remote diagnosis will be needed as well. Surely, these actions will reduce the environmental impact and contribute to environmental preservation or restoration.

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