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National Air Quality Reference Laboratory

In 2001, the Norwegian Environment Agency appointed NILU as the National Air Quality Reference Laboratory. This effort is being undertaken in accordance with the European Union’s air quality directive 2008/50/EC, and the Norwegian Pollution Control Act.

Local air quality in Norwegian municipalities is monitored through the programme “Air Quality Monitoring in Norway”. It is the reference laboratory’s responsibility to ensure that the data collected are comparable, and of high quality. The legislation also sets requirements for representativeness and traceability. Compliance is ensured through the establishment and use of a comprehensive quality control system.

Quality Manual: Quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC)

The National Air Quality Reference Laboratory (NRL-Air), in collaboration with the Norwegian Environment Agency, has developed a comprehensive QA/QC system for Norway’s air quality programme on an operational level.

The QA/QC system is divided into two parts: Part 1 describes the organisation of the quality system, including the responsibilities and duties of the various stakeholders for whom the system has been designed; Part 2 contains all the various standard operating procedures (SOPs) which describe in detail how various instruments should be maintained and calibrated.

These procedures are used by instrument operators as they go about their everyday duties, and ensure that different operators perform air quality measurements in the same (reproducible) way.

As of November 2018, 26 different measurement network owners/operators in Norway’s monitoring network use the system actively.


To be able to compare data from various measurement networks, a traceability system is required. NRL-Air has developed and maintains a system that ensures that all air quality measurements carried out in Norway in accordance with the air quality directive, refer to common national reference standards maintained by NRL-Air.

The national standards’ international traceability is ensured through NRL-Air’s regular participation in international comparison campaigns.

Main responsibilities

Some of NRL-Air’s main responsibilities are to:

  • Develop, update and administer the quality system. This includes developing new procedures, updating documentation, and informing measurement operators about changes and updates in the quality system.
  • Contribute to ensuring that each measurement network owner/operator is fully committed to the system by offering their personnel quality system training.
  • Offer guidance to the measurement network owners/operators on questions related to quality assurance and quality control. This may include station locations, choice of instrumentation, etc.
  • Conduct periodic audits (quality evaluations) of the measurement network operators.
  • Ensure validation of measurement data entered into the central database for air quality data.
  • Contribute to disseminating knowledge on matters related to measurements, the quality assurance/quality control system and reporting.
  • Uphold responsibility for the national reference standards and offer other calibration laboratories traceability to the national standards.Participate in and arrange intercomparisons of different instrument types.
  • Participate in international forums such as CEN and AQUILA (the European Association of National Reference Laboratories).

National database and www.luftkvalitet.info

Each measurement grid operator reports quality-assured data on a monthly basis to the national database for local air quality. This database is operated and maintained by NRL-Air.

In Norway, air quality is appraised for seven geographical zones: three urban areas and four large regions as shown in the figure below. Air quality status in these seven zones is reported from the national database to the EU.


The air quality directive requires each country to have systems for informing the public about the air quality where they live. Real-time air quality status and the air quality status relative to pollution limits are available on the national web portal www.luftkvalitet.info.