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Community Air Screen (CAS)

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What is the CAS program?

DEC's Community Air Screen (CAS) program helps community groups and interested citizens collect air samples. The results help the community and DEC understand air quality concerns. DEC provides the air sampling equipment and training, and then analyzes the air samples and provides an explanation of the results.

Participants in this program collect air samples. The results help DEC and participants understand air quality concerns.

  • In 2012-2014, 22 groups participated in the program. Contact us to learn more.
  • In 2017-2018, eleven groups participated in the program. To learn more, read the reports.
Watch a clip about the types of instruments used in the CAS program -SUMMA canister and the SKC pump. Check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.
DEC staff and a teacher discuss Community Air Screen sampling


The goals of the CAS program are to understand community concerns arising from air toxics on a localized level and to work with the community to address problems. Toxic air pollutants are those pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. Examples of gaseous toxic air pollutants include benzene, which is found in gasoline; perchloroethylene, which is used by some dry cleaning facilities; and formaldehyde, which is released from fossil fuel burning engines and also formed in the atmosphere in the presence of volatile organic compounds and sunlight. Although the focus of the program is on gaseous pollutants, we are interested in learning about all air-related community concerns.

The CAS program utilizes sampling equipment that collects air over a short period of time, one hour. Depending on the types of sources in the community, the same location may be sampled a few times or multiple samplers may be used over the community. The goal of this type of sampling is to provide a quick understanding of the types of air toxics found in the community using EPA-approved air sampling equipment and analysis method. If air toxics are detected at levels of concern, additional testing will be conducted. One benefit of the screening approach is that it allows for a rapid assessment of many communities statewide.

Since the samples are collected over a short period of time and are a limited number of samples, the information obtained cannot be used for enforcement or compliance purposes. Additionally, the results from this screening approach cannot be used to provide a complete understanding of risk attributable from air toxics in the community.

How were communities selected for participation in the CAS program?

Local community groups or interested citizens requested participation in the CAS program through an application process. Upon selection to the program, the location for sampling in the community were determined using information provided by the community group, local meteorological information and location of industrial sources or traffic areas. The number of samples collected for each community varied depending on the industrial sources, pollutant of concern and estimated community air quality level.

What type of sampling equipment was used in the CAS program?

Air samples for evaluation of volatile organic compounds were collected using 6-liter stainless steel canisters, sometimes called SUMMA canisters. Six liters is about a gallon and a half. The term "SUMMA" refers to the high-quality polishing of the canisters. This type of equipment is convenient and provides a reliable method for collecting air samples. The canisters are stainless steel and are designed to maintain the integrity and stability of the sample while it is transported to the laboratory. Also, canisters provide more accurate results than bucket type samplers which are sometimes used for community sampling. The samples were analyzed by the DEC laboratory using EPA's method TO-15.

Air samples for the evaluation of formaldehyde was done using small sampling tubes with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) on the sampling media. The samples were analyzed using EPA's method TO-11A.

Contact Information

Ms. Randi Walker, Program Manager
Community Air Screen Program
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-3259

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