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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927001P - Exposure Assessment by Exhaled Breath/Physiological Sampling

Start Date: 10/1/2004
End Date: 9/30/2009

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Emily Lee
Phone: 304-285-6146
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: HELD
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

The objective of this study is to develop a physiologic sampling pump and to examine the correlation between current and alternate sampling methods to assess worker exposure to vapor- phase organic chemicals in workplaces. The traditional sampling method using fixed-flow samplers may not record worker's true exposures to chemicals. The newly developed physiologic pumps alter their sampling rate in accordance with the worker's breathing rate to provide a more accurate measurement. However, both methodologies are surrogates for a worker's actual exposure. Exposure measurements will be collected by using traditional pump and physiological pump sampling, and compared with direct readings from a real-time instrument. The results of this project can be used to develop a new workplace exposure assessment method and strategy in support of Construction Sector SG #8, Manufacturing Sector SG #5 and 6, Respiratory Diseases Cross-Sector SG #1, and Exposure Assessment Other Cross-Sector SG #2.


It has been recognized that a worker's breathing rate changes with exertion. Thus, traditional pumped sampling of workplace atmospheres potentially may under- or over-represent actual worker exposure. This discrepancy may be due to a poor correlation in time between worker inhalations and the constant flow collection of the traditional sampling pump. The goal of this research is to resolve this discrepancy by determining whether a physiologically-based sampling pump correlates better with direct readings from a real-time instrument than does with a traditional sampling pump. The newly developed physiologic sampling pumps alter the sampling rate based on changes in work-rate. This goal will be accomplished by achieving four specific aims.

Aim 1. Evaluation of the Lifeshirt system

Evaluation of the LifeShirt system will be conducted in the laboratories of Drs. Groves and Freivalds at Penn State University (PSU) to determine the capabilities of the LifeShirt, as providing inputs for a physiologic based pump. It is anticipated that 6-10 subjects will be recruited to perform a range of activities spanning work rates representative of those encountered in the construction industry.

Aim 2. Development of physiologic sampling pump (PSP), and

Aim 3. Identification and testing of the best output from the LifeShirt to physiologically control the flow rate of air sampling pump

Initially, three traditional sampling pumps (TSPs), the Gilian Gilair-5, the Buck Basic-5, and the SKC Pocket pump, will be evaluated to determine if a TSP can be modified to serve as PSP. If modification of traditional pump requires great efforts and high cost, a new PSP equipped with a sophisticated digital controller will be designed by a computer/electronics engineer in our team. Expertise in circuitry and software design developed in the Local Positioning System project will be incorporated into the development of the physiologic sampling pump. After completing the PSP design, it is expected that algorithms correlating the physiologic pump with human breathing rates will be tested.

Aim 4. Characterization of workers' exposure using TSP and PSP, and comparison these results with readings of a real-time instrument

The correlation between the current and alternate sampling methods will be examined via laboratory and field evaluations to access worker exposure to vapor-phase organic chemicals. About 20-30 human subjects for the laboratory evaluation and 8-10 subjects for the field evaluation will be involved. Results from these tests will be compared with results from a real-time instrument's readings to determine whether the physiologic pump correlates better with direct readings of the real-time instrument than the traditional pump does. If so, pump manufacturers will be contacted for commercial hand-off.


1. Recruit human subjects (about 20-30) and perform tests for Phase II study (Laboratory Evaluation).

2. Submit IRB application for Phase III study (Field Evaluation).

3. Contact real workplaces to collect personal exposure from painters in construction and manufacturing areas.

4. Submit abstracts to various conferences and manuscripts for publications.

Mission Relevance

Workers inhale gas phase chemical mixtures from solvents, cleaners, building materials, process chemicals, and manufacturing operations in the workplace atmosphere. Accurately determining worker exposure in a noninvasive way has, however, continued to be a challenge. New sampling methods need to be developed that are as minimally invasive as traditional pump sampling, yet are coupled to the worker and respond to changes in work-rate yielding more accurate values of worker exposure, such as a physiological sampler coupled to a worker's breathing rate.

The objective is to develop a physiologic sampling pump and to examine the correlation between current and alternate sampling methods to assess worker exposure to vapor- phase organic chemicals in workplaces. Construction and manufacturing workers may be exposed to airborne organic chemicals, especially when used as solvents. The normal procedure to assess worker's exposure is through sampling air in the worker's breathing zone. However, it is recognized that worker breathing rate changes with exertion. Thus, it is expected that this research will result in the development of new pumps for traditional air sampling and a new NIOSH method for assessing exposure more accurately. The research findings can also be translated into improved methods for determining workers exposed to chemicals.

Sector: Construction - 50%


Increase understanding of factors that comprise both positive and negative construction safety and health cultures; and, expand the availability and use of effective interventions to maintain safe work practices 100% of the time in the construction industry.

• IG 8.2 – 09PPCONIG8.2: Develop a set of validated measurement methods of safety culture in the construction industry.

- RG 8.2.2 – 09PPCONAOG8.2.2: Evaluate the existing measurement methods to determine the key conceptual elements of the existing measures; identify similarities between methods and conceptual gaps in the existing measures.

• IG 8.3 – 09PPCONIG8.3: Develop effective intervention measures that result in an improved safety and health culture in the construction industry.

- RG 8.3.1- 09PPCONAOG8.3.1: Identify and validate interventions that are effective in improving construction safety and health cultures.

Sector: Manufacturing - 50%


Reduce the number of respiratory conditions and diseases due to exposure in the manufacturing sector


Reduce the prevalance of cancer due to exposures in the manufacturing sector

Cross-Sector: Respiratory Diseases – 100%


Prevent and reduce work-related airways lung diseases

• IG 1.2 – 09PPRDRIG1.2: Prevent and reduce work-related COPD

- Activity/Output Goal- 09PPRDRAOG1.2.4: Develop and improve methods for collecting, analyzing, and responding to the results of longitudinal pulmonary function testing to optimize identification and secondary prevention for individuals at risk of developing severe COPD.

09PPRDRSG2: Strategic Goal 2: Prevent and reduce work-related interstitial lung diseases.

09PPRDRSG4: Strategic Goal 4: Prevent and reduce work-related respiratory malignancies.

Other Cross-Sector: Exposure Assessment – 100%


Develop or improve specific methods and tools to assess worker exposures to critical occupational agents and stressors.

• IG2.3 – 09PPEXAIG2.3: Develop and evaluate new or improved methods for assessing exposure to workplace chemicals and occupational health stressors either singly or as mixtures, including both prospective and retrospective methods.

- Activity/Output 2.3.1-09PPEXAAOG2.3.1: Development of new or improved methods to measure chemicals or other occupational hazards in the work environment.

- Activity/Output 2.3.2-09PPEXAAOG2.3.2: Validation of these methods to provide and characterize their performance (specificity, sensitivity, accuracy, etc.) including publication in the NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods.

- Activity/Output 2.3.3-09PPEXAAOG2.3.3: Application of these methods to evaluate occupational exposure.