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J Environ Monit. 2002 Jun;4(3):361-70.

Low-flow active and passive sampling of VOCs using thermal desorption tubes: theory and application at an offset printing facility.

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  • 1The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-2029, USA.


While air sampling techniques using adsorbent-based collection, thermal desorption and chromatographic analysis have found a niche in ambient air sampling, occupational applications have been more limited. This paper evaluates the use of thermal desorption techniques for low flow active and passive sampling configurations which allow conveniently long duration sampling in occupational settings and other high concentration environments. The use of an orifice enables flows as low as 0.5 ml min(-1) and sampling periods up to several days without significant biases. A model is used to predict sampling rates of a passive sampler encompassing an orifice, a void space, glass wool, and the adsorbent. Laboratory and field tests conducted at a commercial offset printing facility, which contained a variety of volatile organic compounds (primarily aromatic but also a few chlorinated and terpene compounds at levels from 1 to 67,000 microg m(-3)), are used to evaluate the approach. Tenax GR and Carbosieve SIII, both singly and together, were employed as adsorbents. Side-by-side tests comparing high flow, low flow and passive samplers show excellent agreement and high linearity (r = 0.95) for concentrations spanning nearly five orders of magnitude. Active samplers were tested at flows as low as 0.5 ml min(-1), compared to typical flows up to 40 ml min(-1). Passive samplers demonstrated a linear range and agreement with predictions for adsorbate loadings from approximately 1 ng to nearly 10 microg. Using a chemical mass balance receptor model, concentrations in the facility were apportioned to solvents, inks and other indoor and outdoor sources. Overall, the use of low flow active and passive sampling approaches employing thermal desorption techniques provides good performance and tremendous flexibility that facilitates use in many applications, including workplace settings.

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