According to the WHO, around 92% of the air that we breathe is polluted. In Australia alone, around 5,000 cancer cases are attributed to the exposure of carcinogens. Again, as per the WHO, most of these cases are due to poor work conditions and most victims are employees who have to work in such conditions.
Merely knowing what contaminants are present is not enough. One should also know the concentration on each to gauge exactly how poor the condition is and what kind of a solution is needed.
This is also important because some contaminants are naturally present in the air and are not dangerous unless they exceed the specific amount. Knowing the concentration can help take the right decision.
Checking And Measuring Different Hazardous Contaminants In Air
Here are some of the most common contaminants that must be checked for:
Organic Vapors: These are present in almost every industry in some amount, but are most common in paint, cleaning and chemical industries.
To test the air for organic vapors, collect the sample onto a sorbent tube, next provide heat to desorb it or purge it into a gas chromatograph along with FID (Flame Ionization Detector). This method will reveal the presence of organic vapors in the air.
Inorganic Gases: Checking for the presence of different gases requires different methods. CO and CO2 can be determined using the infrared sampling equipment and method. Ozone and oxides of nitrogen can be revealed using chemiluminescence. For sulphur dioxide, microcoulometry and photometric can be used.
Inorganic gases are the most common cause of indoor pollution. They can deteriorate the functioning of the lungs, causing diseases like asthma, bronchitis and cancer too.
Metal Fumes: Simple exercises like welding gives rise to metal fumes that can deteriorate the health of people around and the welder as well. Short-term exposure can cause fever, chills for a few hours but long-term exposure can cause diseases like cancer, ulcer, and kidney damage.
To check for metal fumes, collect the air and expose it on a filter paper. Analyze the results using Inductively Coupled Plasma Arc Spectroscopy (ICP).
Asbestos In Air: It is a dangerous cancer-causing fiber that must be checked for in the air. Collect a sample and expose it to cellulose ester membrane filter. Now analyze and look for fibers on the membrane using phase contrast microscopy.
Types Of Exposure Standards To Know About
Exposure Standard refers to the standard that covers the maximum airborne concentration. In Australia, these limits are set in accordance with Section 17 and 19 of the WHS Act.
This act is about eliminating or reducing the risks that are associated with hazardous substances.
Some main types of airborne Exposure Standards include STEL, TWA, and Peak limitation.
TWA – 8 Hour Time Weighted Average: It refers to a worker being allowed to be exposed to airborne concentration for about 8 hours.
STEL – Short Term Exposure Limit: This involves airborne concentration exposure to be allowed for 15 minutes only. These are implemented in workplaces where air contaminants are clearly identified and are in abundance.
Peak Limitation: This is the strictest Exposure Standard that says that exposure to airborne substances must not exceed 15 minutes at any cost.
However, to determine the right Exposure Standard for a workplace, it is essential to measure the air contaminants first.
At Anitech, we can help you conduct the chemical monitoring, Air monitoring in your workplace and help you create a safe work environment.