Portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology may provide faster turn-around without compromising accuracy when assessing personal exposures to metals such as lead, but it has only been tested in limited field environments. This study is part of a series, where various types of sampler are used to collect airborne lead in different environments for presentation to a portable XRF analyzer. In this case personal samples were taken at a manufacturer of solder alloys consisting mainly of lead and tin, using the closed-face 37 mm cassette (CFC), the 37 mm GSP or "cone" sampler, the 25 mm Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) inhalable sampler, the 25 mm button sampler, and the open-face 25 mm cassette. Mixed cellulose-ester filters were used in all samplers. Following XRF analysis the samples were extracted with acid and analyzed by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP). The internal surfaces of CFC's and 25 mm open-face cassettes were also wiped, and the wipes analyzed for lead to assess wall-losses in these two samplers. Analysis of all elements present is useful to ascertain contributions to matrix interference effects. In addition to lead, other metals such as tin, copper, iron, silver, cadmium and antimony were also detected in some or all of the samples by ICP analysis, but only copper and iron could be determined using the XRF analyzer under test. After the removal of a few outliers, all five samplers gave good correlations (r(2) > 0.9) between the two analytical methods over the entire range of found lead mass, which encompassed both the action level and the permissible exposure limit enforced in the USA by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Linear regression on the results from most samplers gave almost 1 ratio 1 correlations without additional correction, indicating an absence of matrix effects, particularly from tin, which was the most common element after lead. The average of three XRF readings across filters from the GSP samplers gave the best results with 96.7% of results within +/-25% and 100% within +/-30% of the associated ICP values. Using the center reading only was almost as good with 90.0% of results within +/-25% and 96.7% within +/-30% of the associated ICP values, and results can be obtained faster with a single reading. The use of an algorithm developed by OSHA for three readings from the CFC filter samples gave the next best results with 93.3% of XRF results within +/-25% of the corresponding ICP values. However, analysis of wipes from the interior of the cassettes indicated a substantial loss of sample to the walls, and even larger wall-losses were encountered in the 25 mm open-face cassette. Neither this latter sampler nor the IOM or button sampler met the 95% criterion, even for +/-30% accuracy.
Exposure Assessment Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1095 Willowdale Rd., MS-3030, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA