Measure air quality to determine what safety precautions you need to take
If you are in a research laboratory or process environment, you may find air sampling beneficial, especially during a pandemic. Air sampling is a process used to determine what airborne contaminants are present in an environment. When air sampling, you use special instruments to detect contaminants such as gases, vapors, dusts and fibers in the air. These substances can cause respiratory impairments if inhaled. So, air sampling helps you to measure air quality and determine what safety precautions you need to take. Various types of air sampling equipment can be used to get the job done. And, did you know, a cassette is available to test coronavirus in the air?
Why perform air sampling?
Performing air sampling allows you to sample the air to monitor your workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants. Air sampling gives you the air-quality data you need to make informed decisions and put your employees’ health first.
- Determining contaminant type: Using sampling equipment helps companies know what contaminants are present and whether those particles are toxic.
- Determining contaminant concentrations: Companies also need to know how much of a contaminant is present in the environment. Sampling can give them an idea of what concentrations are present so they can determine whether the environment is safe to work in.
Different forms of air sampling
- Static air sampling: Static air sampling take samples of air from the ambient environment. Ambient air sampling devices are generally larger and have high flow rates, so they can sample a large volume of air in a short time. They are particularly useful for locating contaminant sources.
- Personal air sampling: This air sampling procedure samples the air one person interacts with. In personal air sampling, a worker often puts on wearable sampling equipment, usually over the area several inches from the face, and goes about a typical workday. The equipment captures a representative sample of particles the person comes into contact with.
Types of contaminants in the air
Air contaminants break down into a few specific types:
- Gases: Gases are present in many workplace environments. They are shapeless fluids that expand to fill the space they occupy. Exhaust gases, arc-welding gases and internal combustion gases are all common examples in industrial workplaces. Toxic gases are hazardous to human health, and even nontoxic gases may cause harm if they impede oxygen intake.
- Vapors: Vapors are volatile substances that form when materials that normally exist in a solid or liquid state evaporate. In industry, organic solvents commonly produce vapors, especially solvents with low boiling points that vaporize easily at room temperature. Many vapors make their way into the body through inhalation and skin absorption.
- Dusts: In industry, dusts are solid airborne particles that measure between 0.1 to 25 micrometers. Dusts are usually the solid particles generated by activities like crushing, handling, breaking, detonating, grinding, crushing, blasting or shaking different materials. The materials may be organic or inorganic — rock, coal, wood, ore, metal and grain are common examples. Dusts of less than 10 micrometers in diameter are known as respirable particles because they can lodge themselves deep in the alveolar sacs of the lungs.
- Fumes: Fumes form when warm volatilized solids — solids that have changed into vapors – condense in cool air. The particles that make up fumes are extremely fine and easy to inhale — usually less than 1 picometer in diameter. Welding and other processes that involve molten metal tend to produce fumes.
- Mists: Mists are finely dispersed liquids suspended in the atmosphere. They form when vaporized liquids condense back into their liquid state, and the liquid particles become suspended in the air. They may also form when a process like atomizing disperses liquid into the air. Cutting and grinding may generate oil mists, electroplating often produces acid mists, and spray finishing processes often generate spray mists.
- Fibers: Fibers are long, slender, solid particles whose length often greatly exceeds their diameter. Asbestos, fiberglass and fibrous talc often break down into fibers. Processes in construction, mining, demolition and fabrication often produce these contaminants.
Types of air sampling equipment
Air sampling equipment comes in various forms, so you can choose the air sampling methods and tools specific to your applications.
Filter cassettes are the basic units of air sampling. Many sampling cassettes work with pumps to collect particulates from the air — they are particularly effective for mold collection. Facilities can use the cylinder-shaped cassettes to collect air contaminants from work environments and send them to the laboratory for analysis.
Cassettes sometimes contain preloaded filters for convenience in air sampling. Unlike other pieces of equipment, these cassettes do not require weighing or assembly before use.
Vira-Pore Viral Sampling Cassette
If you are involved in health and safety monitoring, environmental testing, or screening programs, you recognize the importance of maintaining good indoor and workplace air quality, carrying out accurate and reliable testing, and implementing necessary safety measures. The Vira-Pore viral sampling cassette featuring the ZePore™ filter has been specifically designed and validated for the collection of airborne RNA from a coronavirus and, by analogy, it could be used for sampling RNA from other viruses such as:
- SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease COVID-19
- Influenza A
The Vira-Pore is capable of collecting viral particles, while maintaining the stability of viral RNA during sampling, transport to the laboratory, and storage before analysis. The viral RNA can then be eluted and analyzed using RT-PCR with primers specific to the virus under investigation. It is ideal for indoor air quality, hospital infection control and room clearance assurance. This cassette can be used with virtually any kind of sampling pump capable of pulling a 10 LPM (vacuum) airflow for short periods, including the Zefon High Volume Rotary Vane Pump. It can also be used with any personal pump capable of operating at 3 LPM for longer periods, including the Zefon Escort ELF.
Air sampling pumps pair with filter media to collect contaminants from the air. They are useful for area sampling, indoor air quality sampling and personal sampling, and they work well for many contaminants, including asbestos, beryllium, hazardous particulates, lead, mold spores, and respirable dust and silica.
Bubblers and impingers
Bubblers and impingers often work with an area pump to sample contaminants in a defined area. Impingers often work best for particulates, and bubblers are ideal for gases and vapors. They require liquid for their work — they collect their contaminants by bubbling the air through a liquid that binds to the contaminants.
Filters and filter media
Filters work by passing air through membranes filled with small pores. The air can pass through, while the tiny holes trap the contaminants on the other side of the media. Filter membranes come in a variety of different materials — mixed cellulose ester (MCE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate track-etch (PCTE), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), glass fiber, quartz and even silver.
Cyclone assemblies connect to filter cassettes to filter larger, nontoxic particles out of the air. They contain a centrifuge where the rapid rotation of air forces larger particles down into a grit pot. Respirable particles continue on and become trapped in the filter cassette.
Inhalable samplers collect particles of a size that makes them particularly likely to enter the body through inhalation — that is, particles of up to 100 micrometers in diameter. They help companies determine the risk of contaminant inhalation for their workers.