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Monitoring airborne metals on a near real-time basis: current and emerging NIOSH analytical methods for portable instruments.

Lawryk N
Trade Industrial Hygiene/Occupational Safety Special Interest Group Steering Committee Workshop, 2002 Oct; :1-8
Nicholas Lawryk, the Director of Airborne Metals Monitoring Program at NIOSH, summarized an ongoing NIOSH program project for emerging field portable technologies to measure airborne metals, including their identification, evaluation and development in the laboratory, applications in various workplaces, and their promotion among potential end users. The program started in January of 2000, and consists of four separate projects that involve instrument selection, method evaluation and development, method application, and communication intervention as a means of encouraging method use. At the turn of this century, about six million workers in the United States were involved in the construction, mining, and metalworking industries. The health impact of exposures to airborne metals depends on the concentration and type of airborne metals the worker is exposed to, which depends on the duration and nature of the task. These factors can vary greatly from one worksite to another and even at different locations in the same worksite. Traditionally, air samples are collected on sample filters contained in cassettes. These filters are then removed from the cassettes and sent to a laboratory for analysis by wet chemistry methods. The receipt of analytical results can take weeks or even months. By this time, the worker may have received an excessive exposure and/or may have moved on to another task or site. Portable instruments allow the industrial hygienist to analyze samples for screening purposes on location with same day speed. These instruments can be used in concert with confirmatory laboratory based analytical methods to verify exposure levels in cases where they are close to the occupational exposure limit (OEL), thereby reducing the number of samples that need to be sent to laboratories for quantitative analysis. This, in turn, renders the exposure assessment process more cost-efficient. The airborne metals of interest are often encountered in fumes and dusts from welding, mining, construction, and metalworking operations (see table). Silver and arsenic have been added to this set since the start of the program. Others will be added as need and viable detection technology permit. These metals are associated with an array of adverse health effects that generally increase in severity as exposure increases. The goals of the NIOSH program project are to (1) evaluate existing methods in the workplace, (2) identify and select appropriate emerging technologies for laboratory and workplace evaluation, (3) develop methods for these technologies, and (4) promote awareness and use of these methods using carefully designed communication interventions. Members of the American Industrial Hygiene Association are currently receiving experimental brochures promoting some of these methods for lead and hexavalent chromium analysis.
Air-quality-monitoring; Air-sampling-equipment; Airborne-dusts; Airborne-particles; Analytical-instruments; Analytical-methods; Metal-dusts; Metallic-dusts
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Research Tools and Approaches: Exposure Assessment Methods
Source Name
Trade Industrial Hygiene/Occupational Safety Special Interest Group Steering Committee Workshop
Page last reviewed: January 29, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division