Public Lab Wiki documentation

Air Sampling

This is a revision from December 15, 2020 22:32. View all revisions
5 | 26 | | #15025

« Back to Sampling

This page collects resources, questions, and requests related to air sampling. Please edit the page to add information or resources.


Air sampling is a way to capture small amounts of air for laboratory testing. Most air sampling methods involve pulling whole air samples into a bag or container through a vacuum system. The bag or container can then be sealed and shipped to a lab for testing. Air grab samples can be tested for over 100 different chemicals (Louisiana Bucket Brigade).

Particle sensing

Air sampling for particulate matter or dust pollution is another type of air sampling. See information on particle sensing on this page.

Types of air samples

Air samples typically fall into one of five categories: indoor air, ambient air, stationary sources (for instance, a smokestack or factory), soil vapor, and mobile sources (traffic). Each type is regulated differently with different sampling methods depending on what you are looking for.


Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Creating a "videocamera" for passive dust collection over time? @natematias over 1 year ago 2
Looking for recommendations of how to obtain air quality samples around a fracked gas compressor station @SBucic about 2 years ago 3
Question about grab samples from the Bucket monitor tool: Which ones do I order? @amocorro about 3 years ago 3
For the Bucket Monitor, how many tedlar bags do you need per-sampling? @mimiss almost 4 years ago 2
Have you used the bucket air sampler or other grab sample tool? @kgradow1 about 4 years ago 11
Where do you send air grab samples to for testing? @stevie over 6 years ago 3
Are there groups who are currently, or have recently, used the Bucket for air sampling? @stevie over 6 years ago 0
How do I choose between different types of air canisters for grab sampling? @stevie almost 7 years ago 0
When is it better to do grab sampling versus other types of monitoring? @stevie almost 7 years ago 2
Where can you purchase a bucket for air grab sampling? @stevie almost 7 years ago 5
What methods are available for doing air grab samples for hydrogen sulfide? @stevie almost 7 years ago 2


Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Bucket Sampling

The bucket monitor is a low-cost, community-friendly air sampler that helps people measure toxic chemicals such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide in their air. It is an EPA-approved grab sampling method that is significantly less expensive than many other air grab systems such as the summa canister (Louisiana Bucket Brigade).

What it tests: When paired with lab analysis, the bucket monitor can measure up to 101 air pollutants including dichloromethane, hydrogen sulfide, perchloroethylene, vinyl chloride, toluene, and benzene.

The bucket monitor wiki page contains full instructions on how to build and use a bucket monitor, instructional videos and stories from community partners who have used the bucket to advocate for healthier air, plus a community Q&A.

Cost: The bucket itself costs around $100 each but they are re-useable. The lab testing costs between $200-$500 each depending on what you want to get tested. The system also needs to be calibrated twice a year which can cost up to $400.

Video on how to use the bucket from Hilton Kelley of Community In Power and Development Association

Story of West Virginia Chemical Valley Bucket Brigade:

More resources and groups who have experience with the Bucket:

Other types of canisters for sampling

The Summa Canister

The Summa Canister is a commercially available sampling system. It can take grab samples intermittently, or over a period of time. The Summa Canisters are described in EPA Method TO-15, and are commonly used for the collection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ambient and indoor air.

Community use case: The Citizens for a Healthy Community in Paonia, Colorado have used the summa canister for air grab sampling. Here is a publication they put together on “How Oil & Gas Impacted Communities Can Test Air Quality On A Small Budget: A step-by-step guidebook based on the North Fork Valley Air Sampling Program” 2016

Helium Diffusion Sampler

Helium diffusion samplers are wearable devices that take samples to measure (VOCs) in ambient and indoor air.

Community use case: In 2016, community members in Pavillon, Wyoming participated in a health and air sampling study. They had noticed an increase in health issues locally and were concerned about the pollution coming from the many nearby gas wells. In their exploration of VOCs, they used a FLIR gas camera, Minirea 3000 air monitoring device, an ambient air model, Aldehyde Badges, Summa Canisters and two wearable monitors: HDS (Helium Diffusion Sampler), and Sorbent Tubes. More information on their study, the results and about their community can be found in the "When the Wind Blows" publication by Elizabeth Crowe, Sharyle Patton, Deborah Thomas, and Beverley Thorpe. More information on this study and the groups involved can be found on the Coming Clean webpage here at

More resources on canister sampling