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Air Monitoring

Definition

Airborne contaminants can present a significant threat to worker health and safety. Thus, identification and quantification of these contaminants through air monitoring is an essential component of a health and safety program at a hazardous waste site. Reliable measurements of airborne contaminants are useful for:

· Selecting personal protective equipment.
· Delineating areas where protection is needed.
· Assessing the potential health effects of exposure
· Determining the need for specific medical monitoring.

Measuring Instruments

The purpose of air monitoring is to identify and quantify airborne contaminants in order to determine the level of worker protection needed. Initial screening for identification is often qualitative, i.e., the contaminant, or the class to which it belongs, is demonstrated to be present but the determination of its concentration (quantification) must await subsequent testing. Two principal approaches are available for identifying and/or quantifying airborne contaminants:
· The onsite use of direct-reading instruments.
· Laboratory analysis of air samples obtained by gas sampling beg, filter, sorbent, or wetcontaminant collection methods.

Monitoring for IDLH and Other Dangerous Conditions

As a first step, air monitoring should be conducted to identify any IDLH and other dangerous conditions, such as flammable or explosive atmospheres, oxygen-deficient environments, and highly toxic levels of airborne contaminants. Direct-reading monitoring instruments will normally include combustible gas indicators, oxygen meters, colorimetric indicator tubes, and organic vapor monitors. Other monitoring instruments may be necessary based on the initial site characterization. When time permits, air samples should be collected for laboratory analysis. Extreme caution should be exercised in continuing a site survey when atmospheric hazards are indicated. Monitoring personnel should be aware that conditions can suddenly change from nonhazardous to hazardous.


Acutely hazardous concentrations of chemicals may persist in confined and low-lying spaces for long periods of time. Look for any natural or artificial barriers, such as hills, tall buildings, or tanks, behind which air might be still, allowing concentrations to build up. Examine any confined spaces such as cargo holds, mine shafts, silos, storage tanks, box cars, buildings, bulk tanks, and sumps where chemical exposures capable of causing acute health effects are likely to accumulate. Low-lying areas, such as hollows and trenches, are also suspect. Monitor these spaces for IDLH and other dangerous conditions. Also consider whether the suspected contaminants are lighter or heavier than air. Then, based on the type of contaminants present, consider sampling on hilltops, under any cover or canopy where workers might work or congregate, and in trenches and low-lying areas.

 

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