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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2009 Feb;6(2):73-81. doi: 10.1080/15459620802590058.

Airborne monitoring to distinguish engineered nanomaterials from incidental particles for environmental health and safety.

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  • 1Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52245, USA. thomas-mpeters@uiowa.edu

Abstract

Two methods were used to distinguish airborne engineered nanomaterials from other airborne particles in a facility that produces nano-structured lithium titanate metal oxide powder. The first method involved off-line analysis of filter samples collected with conventional respirable samplers at each of seven locations (six near production processes and one outdoors). Throughout most of the facility and outdoors, respirable mass concentrations were low (<0.050 mg/m(3)) and were attributed to particles other than the nanomaterial (<10% by mass titanium determined with inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry). In contrast, in a single area with extensive material handling, mass concentrations were greatest (0.118 mg m(-3)) and contained up to 39% +/- 11% lithium titanium, indicating the presence of airborne nanomaterial. Analysis of the filter samples collected in this area by transmission electron microscope and scanning electron microscope revealed that the airborne nanomaterial was associated only with spherical aggregates (clusters of fused 10-80 nm nanoparticles) that were larger than 200 nm. This analysis also showed that nanoparticles in this area were the smallest particles of a larger distribution of submicrometer chain agglomerates likely from welding in an adjacent area of the facility. The second method used two, hand-held, direct-reading, battery-operated instruments to obtain a time series of very fine particle number (<300 nm), respirable mass, and total mass concentration, which were then related to activities within the area of extensive material handling. This activity-based monitoring showed that very fine particle number concentrations (<300 nm) had no apparent correlation to worker activities, but that sharp peaks in the respirable and total mass concentration coincided with loading a hopper and replacing nanomaterial collection bags. These findings were consistent with those from the filter-based method in that they demonstrate that airborne nanoparticles in this facility are dominated by "incidental" sources (e.g., welding or grinding), and that the airborne "engineered" product is predominately composed of particles larger than several hundred nanometers. The methods presented here are applicable to any occupational or environmental setting in which one needs to distinguish incidental sources from engineered product.

PMID:
19034793
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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