Friday, 15 November 2019

Why Do Air Sampling?

  • Category: Blog
  • Published: Tuesday, 02 July 2019 05:07
  • Written by Skc-asia
  • Hits: 526

Introduction

In our normal lives, we all breathe in low levels of chemicals and other airborne contaminants from sources such as vehicle fuel and exhaust, cleaning supplies, and lawn care products. But workers in many industries throughout the world can be exposed to airborne contaminants that are more hazardous, at higher concentrations, and are a more frequent source of exposure.

Ultimately, workers that are over-exposed can develop serious illnesses affecting target organs such as the lungs, kidneys, and liver. Therefore, government agencies have enacted regulations to ensure that workers are safe on the job. These regulations specify allowable levels of designated airborne contaminants in the workplace. All employers must ensure these allowable levels are maintained or receive citations and fines from the governmental regulatory authorities.

In summary then we do air sampling for two reasons:

1. Safety
2. Compliance with government regulations

 

Types of Air Contaminants
In general, air contaminants can be present as a particulate or as a gas/vapor.

Particulates include dusts, fibers, mists, fumes, smokes, or bioaerosols.
Typical exposures to particles include:

  • Silica dust from sandblasting or cutting concrete
  • Coal dust from mining
  • Asbestos fibers in building materials, insulation, or brake linings
  • Acid mists from electroplating operations
  • Metal fumes from welding
  • Smokes from engine exhaust
  • Mold spores from water intrusion events
  •  

    Exposures to gases and vapors may include:

  • Carbon monoxide gas from poorly maintained engines or other equipment
  • Benzene, a known carcinogen, in petroleum products
  • Formaldehyde in the medical and health services occupations, mortuary services, or paper mills
  • Methanol in fracking fluids
  • Trichloroethylene in degreasers for metal parts
  •  

    Measuring Air Contaminants

    Sampling and Analytical Method manuals are published by government agencies such as U.S. NIOSH and OSHA and the U.K. Health and Safety Executive. These methods specify all pertinent details on how to collect a sample for designated compounds.

    In general, active air sampling involves the use of 3 components:

  • Sampling Pump
  • Pump Flowmeter (Calibrator)
  • Sample Collection Media including filters for particulates and sorbent sample tubes for gases/vapors.
  •  

    Personal sampling pumps are small and compact and are normally attached to the worker’s belt. Sample collection media is connected to the pump and placed onto the worker in the breathing zone. Alternatively, the sample can be collected in a fixed-point location for area sampling. When the pump is turned on, the air contaminant is pulled onto the collection media. Sampling is typically done for the entire work shift to properly evaluate the exposure level. After sampling, the collection media is removed from the worker and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

    Alternatively, passive air sampling can be done for some gases/vapors using small badge-like samplers.These are smaller, less obtrusive for the workers, and do not require a pump. These samplers however should have scientific validation to ensure their reliability for your target compounds. Also, like sorbent sample tubes, they must be analyzed by a qualified laboratory.

     

    Evaluating the Results

    The laboratory will typically report the concentrations of the designated airborne contaminant in milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) for particulates or in parts per million (ppm) for gases/vapors. This result is then compared to the exposure levels allowed by the governing authority or the individual corporation.

    The health and safety professional may need to use a basic mathematical formula to calculate the 8-hour time-weighted average if the sample was not collected over the 8-hour day.

     

    Help from SKC

    If you have never done air sampling before, you may wish to take advantage of some of the free training materials available on the SKC website. We suggest that you start with the webinar on Active Sampling.

    SKC has over 50 years’ experience in the health and safety industry. We can help you learn the fundamental principles and can provide a comprehensive range of products to meet all your sampling requirements.

     

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