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NIOSH Respiratory Diseases Research Program

Evidence Package for the National Academies' Review 2006-2007

NIOSH Programs > Respiratory Diseases > Evidence Package > 12. Sampling and Analytical Methods Activities

12. Sampling and Analytical Methods Activities

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A key element in the conduct of field studies on exposures to workplace chemicals and harmful substances is the ability to accurately sample and determine those items of interest to the study. NIOSH provides this vital element through the internal capability to provide analytical method research and analytical service in support of field studies and laboratory research conducted by RDRP. 


RDRP is one of many NIOSH programs that rely on Institute capability in analytical method research to meet the needs for sample analysis in field studies. At the core of these analytical methods research activities is a NIOSH research branch that is a recognized authority in the analysis of occupational hygiene related samples, and that has maintained accreditation with the American Industrial Hygiene Association for over 35 years. A common scenario for these activities is for a field study to identify potential exposures that have unknown chemical components, or have known chemical components for which an analytical method does not exist. The researchers in the analytical methods collaborate in the research effort to develop a method that can characterize the specific exposure in question. NIOSH analytical support is provided through a designated laboratory coordination process that is defined by a series of laboratory standard operating procedures and a rigorous tracking and reporting system. 

The analytical methods activities include both an intramural research group and a comprehensive analytical support contract that serves to provide chemical analyses in support of NIOSH field studies, including those of RDRP. For methods development research dealing with workplace chemicals, NIOSH researchers have developed guidelines to help ensure consistent procedures in the development and evaluation of new sampling and analytical methods. These guidelines have been published in NIOSH Technical Report 95-117, Guidelines for Air Sampling and Analytical Method Development and Evaluation.186  This document provides suggested experiments for the development of sampling and analytical methods based on over 30 years of laboratory experience.  It also provides for detailed data reduction procedures to assess the precision, bias and accuracy of the analytical methods under evaluation. These guidelines have been applied not only to the methods developed intramurally but also to NIOSH contract research as well.

Outputs and Transfer

The contributions of the sampling and analytical methods activities to RDRP are as varied as the endpoints and chemical agents studied in the respiratory disease program.  In general, the methods developed are published in the peer-reviewed literature, and the data generated in the analysis of samples from field studies is utilized in the reports of the exposure and health studies for which they were developed. More than 9,000 methods can be found in the NHAM.

NIOSH analytical methods have also been compiled and disseminated through the NMAM. This NIOSH document is available both in hardcopy and on line ( Web statistics indicate that the NMAM is one of the most highly accessed Web pages in the entire NIOSH Web site, indicating that they are widely used and referenced. 

Intermediate Outcomes

Outputs of NIOSH methods development research for RDRP have resulted in national and international patents. Methods have been incorporated into consensus standards of organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials and the ISO, and have influenced standards settings in other countries for some compounds related to respiratory disease, e.g. the German and Dutch occupational standards for asphalt exposure. NIOSH methods research has also been influential in certain regulatory rule making, e.g. the MSHA standard for diesel exposure in mining ( [External link]). MSHA adopted NIOSH Method 5040 Elemental Carbon (Diesel Part) as a sampling and analytical method for determination of compliance with the new standard.

One of the more recent specific examples of the contribution of analytical methods activities to RDRP was in the study of bronchiolitis obliterans in the flavoring industry (chapter 4.2d). NIOSH analytical methods researchers developed methods and analyzed samples for the characterization and identification of chemicals found in the flavorings workplace, including the identification of diacetyl as a critical component in the flavorings exposure that was associated with the disease. 

 Summary of RDRP topics for which there are contributions of sampling and analytical methods activities

 Interstitial Lung Diseases (chapter 3)

(3.2) Silica: Analysis of numerous sample sets in support of respiratory disease field studies related to silica. This includes mining surveys and construction surveys.

(3.3) Vermiculite: Extensive analytical service was provided in support of the surveys dealing with exposure to vermiculite. This included development of an analysis protocol by NIOSH researchers and sample analysis by the comprehensive analytical support contract.

(3.4) Beryllium: Analyses of numerous samples for beryllium were conducted both in house and via comprehensive analytical support contract. In-house method modification to allow analysis of cotton gloves for beryllium contamination was included.

Airways Diseases (chapter 4)

(4.1) Natural Rubber Latex Allergy: In collaboration with external investigators, analytical methods researchers documented the performance characteristics of all available tests for serum specific anti-latex IgE as compared to allergy skin testing using a prototype skin testing reagent. Analytical support was provided to assess for sensitization in several studies of latex allergy in health care workers.

 (4.1) Isocyanates: Extensive analytical service has been provided for NIOSH field studies dealing with isocyanate exposure. This included both in house and comprehensive analytical support contract work.

(4.1) Indoor Air Quality: RDRP researchers collaborated in a variety of HHEs on indoor air quality in buildings with water damage and documented mold exposure in the inhabitants.  In order to attempt to document body burdens of fungal metabolites as indicators of exposure, a multiplexed fluorescence covalent microbead immunosorbent assay was developed to detect serum levels of stachylysin (Stachyborys chartarum), chrysolysin (Penicillium chrysogenum), and nigerolysin (Aspergillus niger). 

(4.2) Bronchiolitis Obliterans: Extensive characterization and identification of chemicals found in flavorings workplace by thermal desorption/gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Analysis of 21 sets of samples in support of flavorings study was performed both in-house and via comprehensive analytical support contract.

Respiratory Malignancies (chapter 5)

(5.2) Chromium: Extensive analytical service was provided in support of studies conducted in the chrome plating industry.

(5.4) Diesel Engine Exhaust: Extensive analytical service was provided in support of the mining survey of the diesel powered mines. This included sample analysis by comprehensive analytical support contract and extensive quality assurance checks of the analyses by NIOSH researchers.

Nanotechnology (chapter 7)

NIOSH researchers have provided analytical support for the metal content of carbon nanotubes and fibers. Due to the unique properties of these materials, special rigorous digestion techniques have been implemented to completely digest the carbon structure to allow metals analysis. A comprehensive analytical support contract has also provided analysis of other nanomaterials.

HHEs (chapter 9)

Analysis of numerous sample sets in support of HETA evaluations involving respiratory diseases.

Emergency Response (chapter 10)

Analytical chemical support during the first several weeks after the 9/11 attacks on WTC.


186. Kennedy ER, Fischbach TJ,  Song R, Eller PM,  Shulman SA. Guidelines for Air Sampling and Analytical Method Development and Evaluation. DHHS(NIOSH) Publication No. 95-117.