A parameter based on discrepancies between reported fibers and verified fibers of relocatable slides is shown to be effective in monitoring the quality of airborne fiber counts. Analysts report only the fibers in each field examined. The verified fibers were determined by two experienced analysts, and are here considered as a true value. Most of the verified fibers were confirmed by the reported fibers, and the disputed fibers or fiber counting errors were all located and accounted for. In this study, reference (REF) slides were manufactured from proficiency analytical test (PAT) filter samples from the American Industrial Hygiene Association containing chrysotile or amosite. The slides were made using coverglasses bearing a grid pattern to allow accurate re-examinations. These coverglasses are an improved version of those used in previous studies. Seventy-four out of 85 amosite results and 51 out of 60 chrysotile results of REF slides were within their PAT proficiency ranges. When all reported fibers were normalized against their respective verified fibers, the average fiber count was over-estimated for amosite by 38.3% and under-estimated for chrysotile by 30.4%. The error from counting short fibers (sizing-extra) was 82.6% of the extra fibers and accounted for the 38% over-estimation of amosite fibers. For chrysotile fibers, sizing-extra errors were 74.0% of the extra fibers, but by far the larger errors were oversight-missing errors, which were 96.7% of the missing fibers and accounted for the 30% under-estimation of the chrysotile fibers. The discrepancies were found to be linearly related to counting errors as had been noted in a previous study, giving further weight to a proposed score, calculated from the discrepancy parameter (D+ + |D-|)/VFtotal, for evaluating the proficiencies of analysts. If a proficiency score = 60 is selected, 48 out of 85 amosite results and 17 out of 60 chrysotile results satisfied this criterion in this study. The number of fiber counting errors in this study was larger than could be expected by PAT proficiency criteria. It may be useful to complement existing proficiency test programs with these REF slides. At the end of each proficiency testing round, detailed reports of discrepancies can be provided to participants so that they can improve on their skills in searching and sizing fibers and minimize their counting errors. In addition, the internal quality control program of each laboratory could include counting REF slides regularly by all analysts with control charts of (D+/VFtotal), (D-/VFtotal), (D+ + |D-|)/VFtotal and RFtotal/VFtotal maintained to monitor errors, proficiencies and intercounter variations. Ten percent of relocatable slides of routine samples could also be recounted to monitor intracounter variation.
Martin Harper, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Exposure Assessment Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, 1095 Willowdale Rd. MS-3030, Morgantown, WV 26505