Direct-Reading Inhalable Dust Monitoring—An Assessment of Current Measurement Methods

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Abstract

Direct-reading dust monitors designed specifically to measure the inhalable fraction of airborne dust are not widely available. Current practice therefore often involves comparing the response of photometer-type dust monitors with the concentration measured with a reference gravimetric inhalable sampler, which is used to adjust the dust monitor measurement. However, changes in airborne particle size can result in significant errors in the estimation of inhalable concentration by this method. The main aim of this study was to assess how these dust monitors behave when challenged with airborne dust containing particles in the inhalable size range and also to investigate alternative dust monitors whose response might not be as prone to variations in particle size or that could be adapted to measure inhalable dust concentration. Several photometer-type dust monitors and a Respicon TM, tapered element oscillating microbalance (TEOM) personal dust monitor (PDM) 3600, TEOM 1400, and Dustrak DRX were assessed for the measurement of airborne inhalable dust during laboratory and field trials. The PDM was modified to allow it to sample and measure larger particles in the inhalable size range. During the laboratory tests, the dust monitors and reference gravimetric samplers were challenged inside a large dust tunnel with aerosols of industrial dusts known to present an inhalable hazard and aluminium oxide powders with a range of discrete particle sizes. A constant concentration of each dust type was generated and peak concentrations of larger particles were periodically introduced to investigate the effects of sudden changes in particle size on monitor calibration. The PDM, Respicon, and DataRam photometer were also assessed during field trials at a bakery, joinery, and a grain mill. Laboratory results showed that the Respicon, modified PDM, and TEOM 1400 observed good linearity for all types of dust when compared with measurements made with a reference IOM sampler; the photometer-type dust monitors on the other hand showed little correlation. The Respicon also accurately measured the inhalable concentration, whereas the modified PDM underestimated it by ~27%. Photometer responses varied considerably with changing particle size, which resulted in appreciable errors in airborne inhalable dust concentration measurements. Similar trends were also observed during field trials. Despite having limitations, both the modified PDM and Respicon showed promise as real-time inhalable dust monitors.

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