National Air Quality Reference Laboratory

In 2001, the Norwegian Climate and Pollution 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 air pollution control law. The reference laboratory’s role is to ensure that data collected for the “Air Quality Monitoring in Norway” programme are of high quality and comparable. The legislation also sets requirements for representativeness and traceability. Compliance with these requirements 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) has developed a comprehensive QA / QC system for Norway’s air quality programme at the operational level. The QA/QC system is divided into two parts: Part 1 describes the organization of the quality system, including the responsibilities and duties of the various stakeholders for whom the system has been designed, while Part 2 is a collection of all the various standard operating procedures (SOPs) which describe in detail how various instruments should be maintained and calibrated both in the field and in the laboratory. These procedures have been designed for use by instrument operators in their daily work, and should ensure that different operators perform various air quality tasks in the same (reproducible) way.

As of 2009, the system is in active use by 14 different measurement network owners/ operators in Norway’s monitoring network.


A key component for ensuring that data from various measurement networks are comparable is a traceability system. NRL-Air has developed and maintains a system that ensures that all air quality measurements in Norway carried out in accordance with the air quality directive refer to the common national reference standards that NRL-Air maintains. The national standards have international traceability 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, informing measurement operators about changes and updating the quality system.
  • Contribute to ensuring that the quality system is firmly anchored in the various measurement network owners/operators by offering training, among other programmes, to their personnel.
  • Offer guidance to the measurement network owners/operators on questions related to quality assurance and quality control. This may include choosing station locations, choice of instrumentation, training, and so forth.
  • Conduct periodic audits (quality evaluations) of the different measurement network operators.
  • Ensure the validation of measurement data that are 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 intercomparisons of different instrument types.
  • Participate in international forums such as CEN and AQUILA (the European Association of National Reference Laboratories).
    The national air quality database can be found at

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 evaluated based on seven geographical zones, composed of three urban regions and four large regions as shown in the figure. The air quality status, in accordance with the air quality directive, is reported from the national database to the EU based on these seven zones.

The air quality directive also requires that each country have systems to inform the public about air quality where they live. Online viewing of the status of real time air quality and the air quality status in comparison to pollution limits are both available on the national web portal: