Excursion Guidance Criteria to Guide Control of Peak Emission and Exposure to Airborne Engineered Particles
The overall aim of our research was to characterize airborne particles from selected nanotechnology processes and to utilize the data to develop and test quantitative particle concentration-based criteria that can be used to trigger an assessment of particle emission controls.
We investigated particle number concentration (PNC), particle mass (PM) concentration, count median diameter (CMD), alveolar deposited surface area, elemental composition, and morphology from sampling of aerosols arising from six nanotechnology processes. These included fibrous and non-fibrous particles, including carbon nanotubes (CNTs).
We adopted standard occupational hygiene principles in relation to controlling peak emission and exposures, as outlined by both Safe Work Australia, (1) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®). (2) The results from the study were used to analyses peak and 30-minute averaged particle number and mass concentration values measured during the operation of the nanotechnology processes.
Analysis of peak (highest value recorded) and 30-minute averaged particle number and mass concentration values revealed: Peak PNC20–1000 nm emitted from the nanotechnology processes were up to three orders of magnitude greater than the local background particle concentration (LBPC). Peak PNC300–3000 nm was up to an order of magnitude greater, and PM2.5 concentrations up to four orders of magnitude greater. For three of these nanotechnology processes, the 30-minute average particle number and mass concentrations were also significantly different from the LBPC (p-value < 0.001).
We propose emission or exposure controls may need to be implemented or modified, or further assessment of the controls be undertaken, if concentrations exceed three times the LBPC, which is also used as the local particle reference value, for more than a total of 30 minutes during a workday, and/or if a single short-term measurement exceeds five times the local particle reference value. The use of these quantitative criteria, which we are terming the universal excursion guidance criteria, will account for the typical variation in LBPC and inaccuracy of instruments, while precautionary enough to highlight peaks in particle concentration likely to be associated with particle emission from the nanotechnology process. Recommendations on when to utilize local excursion guidance criteria are also provided.