FDA IAQ Compliance Requirements In Food Production

During the fall of 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule regarding preventive controls of human food. The final rule is part of the legal obligation of the FDA to provide guidelines that align with the Food Safety Modernization Act, a law signed into legislation in early 2011.

According to the FDA, the law is one of the most comprehensive reforms of food safety laws in the last 70 years. Prior to the signing of FSMA, laws were designed to respond to food contamination outbreaks. That has now changed, as the focus shifts more to preventing contamination.

Statistics from 2014 collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that throughout that year, 846 foodborne illnesses were reported, with 13,246 individuals falling ill and 21 fatalities. To help prevent these outbreaks, the FDA’s rule establishes regulations for manufacturers and compliance requirements to ensure food doesn’t become contaminated during the production process. These regulations specifically outline sanitary guidelines, which include air filtration systems.

Food production line.

What is the rule?

Preventive controls of the finalized rule indicate that within a food-processing plant, systems are required to ensure hazards are eliminated or minimized. The FDA stated that this requirement covers food allergens and sanitation controls.

While food manufacturing plants are likely outfitted with air filtration systems, the FDA has imposed compliance deadlines to ensure all aspects of food processing follow the rule and have the proper air filtration systems in place. Small businesses will have two years to comply, very small organizations, defined as, defined as those with less than $1 million in annual revenue, will have three years and every other company must comply in a year of the final rule’s publication.

Role of Air Filters in Food Production

Air filters, specifically HEPA filters, clean out the air when various foods are manufactured. It’s a process a majority of consumers likely don’t think about as they sit down to eat at the dinner table, but it’s one that has a huge effect on the final product.

For example, the process of making yogurt involves the filtration of plant air, according to Michael Bryne, a business and technical manager at EHL Group, a company that specializes in various engineering fields. He stated in a LinkedIn post that yogurt facilities need point-of-use air that is filtered to a sterile level, otherwise the final product may not turn out as intended.

Food processing plant managers and executives will have to ensure their facilities are outfitted with air filtration systems to minimize the risk of food being exposed to contaminants. Since companies will have time to comply with the FDA’s final rule regarding preventive controls for human food, they can contact Air Impurities Removal Systems to find the best filters available to use during the food production process.

Industrial Hygiene & Indoor Air Quality Concerns

Industrial Hygiene & Indoor Air Quality Concerns 1

In the early 20th century, public awareness of occupational-related illnesses was not yet a reality, but advocacy for the safety of US laborers was beginning to grow. Physicians, research scientists, and medical experts began documenting worker health problems. Pioneers of the labor-advocacy movement led efforts to improve industrial hygiene after finding conclusive evidence linking worker illness to contact with noxious contaminants. Industrial hygiene, simply put, is the environment of cleanliness in a given industry. It is a broad-reaching topic, one that includes indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality can be compromised everywhere – in all types of businesses. Perhaps the most at-risk industries are those in the production of goods. Dust and fumes generated during the manufacturing process can result in the release of impurities in the workplace. This exposure to unclean air can be hazardous which is why agencies such as OSHA have gone to great lengths to protect the US labor force from unsafe working conditions.

The World Health Organization named airborne dust and vapors in the workplace vital global health concerns because of their association with widespread disease. (1)

Clean Air Standards in the Workplace

The government requires all industries to comply with certain clean air standards. But in some cases, business owners wish to go beyond what is federally mandated and ensure that their workers are completely protected from errant toxins in order to eliminate health risks and improve productivity.

This is where industrial hygiene becomes a necessary focus. OSHA defines industrial hygiene as,

The science devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers. (2)

Industries most likely to generate excessive dust include:

  1. Any job that breaks or crushes solid material, such as stone masonry
  2. Foundries
  3. Blasting labors such as rust and paint removal
  4. Glass and ceramics manufacturing
  5. Powered chemical use in chemical, pesticide, pharma and rubber industries
  6. Food processing plants, such as flour mills and bakeries

In addition to dust and particulates, fumes and mists threaten workplace safety. Specific manufacturing jobs that have a high incidence of occupational exposure to chemical fumes include those in the paint, welding, rubber, and pharmaceutical industries. It isn’t just the health of the workforce that can suffer. When indoor air quality is poor, production can suffer as well.

Building Awareness

Often, business owners are aware of the exposure risks faced by their employees and take steps to remediate. However, when it isn’t clear what environmental dangers exist, they can hire industrial hygienists (IHs) to analyze, identify, and measure occupational hazards that can cause health problems in their workers. (3) IHS uses environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) names – but does not limit – occupational risks to the following contaminants:

Aerosols, airborne particles, asbestos, combustibles, dust, gases, hazardous waste, lead, nanotechnology, pesticides, silica, and solvents. (4)

A professional industrial hygienist will measure air quality in two key areas: a worker’s breathing zone and the ambient air in a given physical area. The resultant approach to improving air quality is three-tiered:

  1. Eliminate or reduce particles and fumes through engineering controls
  2. Extract particulates and fumes through capture and ventilation systems
  3. Filter particulates and fumes from inside and then discharge outside (5)

WHO backs up this standard of practice, citing the best way to improve poor IAQ is through elimination at the source, containment, and ventilation. (1)

Don’t let poor industrial hygiene prove to be a setback for your business. At AIR Systems, Inc. we serve our customers by identifying areas of potential risk. We supply stellar products that will eliminate, extract, and filter out hazardous dust and fumes, removing air-impurities from your place of business, keeping your workers safe. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.

The Tennis Ball, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk in the Rubber Industry

Compromised Indoor Air Quality Causes Occupational Risk in the Rubber Industry

The Tennis Ball, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk in the Rubber Industry

Whether you compete for a club championship trophy, spend afternoons on the clay with friends, or are simply a pet owner who passes time playing fetch with your dog at the park, you are no stranger to that universally recognized ball wrapped in bright yellow felt. The tennis ball.

Tennis as we know it was first played in the 1870s but before that, the balls used were considerably different than those of today. Fabricated from cloth or leather and filled with rags or horsehair, tennis balls during that time weren’t uniform in design. Modern tennis adopted improvements to the ball that including stitched flannel around the rubber surface and air pressurizing the balls for a reliable bounce. Then along came vulcanized rubber, which quickly became a manufacturing mainstay. Felting was the last major change. (1)

Today, over 300 million tennis balls are produced each year with more than 200 brands worldwide. It takes a lot of rubber to turn out that many balls. As a result, rubber workers are at risk for illness due to air pollution caused by the industrial methods employed during manufacturing. (2)

Harmful Byproducts of Rubber Production

According to the EPA, the occupational risks affecting the rubber industry are directly related to the rubber-making process. In addition, the EPA has identified rubber manufacturing facilities as a major source of HAP (hazardous air pollutant) emissions. (3)

While rubber goods are an important part of modern life, their production involves subjecting varied combinations of hundreds of chemicals to heat, pressure, and catalytic action during the various manufacturing processes. As a consequence, toxic substances and chemical byproducts abound.

The rubber manufacturing industry employs a considerable number of workers. Though the current US Department Of Labor statistics is not available at this time. The fact that in 1989 there were approximately 132,500 workers employed in non-tire rubber production is telling. There are many thousands of rubber workers potentially at risk, many of whom, make tennis balls.

How Does It Happen?

Beginning with a rubber-based core, there is a five-step process for making a tennis ball.

  1. Crushing – The rubber compound is repeatedly crushed in an open mill
  2. Compressing – The forms are cut from the rubber core and then compression molded into a thin shell
  3. Sheeting – The shell is made into a sheet and rolled up, then cooled and cut into semi-circles
  4. Buffing – Shell halves are combined then buffed and then placed into a cylinder to add grooves before felt is added
  5. Felting – A machine cuts the fabric so felting may be stuck to the rubber core to create the finished product

Steps 1-3 present the highest risk for unhealthy exposure, according to the National Institute Of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Indoor air quality concerns such as contact with amine composites (which are organic derivatives of ammonia) (5) and exposure to hundreds of different chemical emissions in the form of vapors, dust, gases, and fumes (4) are at the top of the NIOSH caution list. Workers are exposed to these toxins – some of them carcinogenic compounds – by way of inhalation and dermal absorption. OSHA, too, has warned workers in the rubber industry about specific health problems affecting the kidneys, lungs, skin, and eyes. Headache, nausea, fever, and dizziness are only a few of the possible symptoms.

Protecting Rubber Industry Workers

Most rubber manufacturing plants (including those that produce tennis balls), comply with OSHA recommendations for minimizing worker risk by way of wearing protective clothing and using engineering controls. (5) But it proves prudent to make sure that source capture equipment is modern and up to date and all ambient air cleaning systems are sufficient to adequately purify the air so workers are not at occupational risk.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the rubber manufacturing industry by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air cleaning products. Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Linked to Dry Eye Syndrome

Recent research connects the relationship between air pollution levels and dry eye syndrome

Using air cleaning systems to purify indoor air can help combat the outdoor dry eye contaminants that can cause dry eye syndrome.

Residents who live in polluted cities were more likely to experience dry eye syndrome, according to Science Daily.

The medical condition is considered a deficiency in the ability to produce natural tears and affects up to 4 million people aged 50 and older in the United States. Dry eye syndrome can lead to changes in quality of life and can prevent people from enjoying everyday activities like reading. This syndrome can also cause the eyes to produce an excess amount of tears as a response. 

Environmental factors such as atmospheric conditions have long been pinpointed as a cause for the condition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on its site that indoor pollutants can also result in a variety of adverse health effects, such as sore eyes, headaches, and fatigue, which could be reduced with air cleaners. Sources of these pollutants include combustion pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), from chemicals commonly detected in varnishes and waxes as well as cleaning materials.

Researchers in the study connected the prevalence of dry eye syndrome to the amount of pollution city residents face, according to daily Rx News. For the study, data on 3.41 million patients who visited 394 eye clinics for veterans in locations around the U.S. were collected between July 2006 and July 2011. Out of these millions of patients, about 606,000 were recorded as having low tear volume, which could indicate dry eye syndrome. The research results were announced at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in New Orleans.

The connection between eye health and dry eye contaminants

The locations most likely to have patients exposed today eye contaminants included most metropolitan areas in the study. These locations were New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami, which were all found to have 17 to 21 percent of patients with dry eye syndrome as well as large amounts of air pollution. However, a solution to prevent this medical condition is as simple as using air filtration systems.

“Undoubtedly, many people living in arid and polluted cities would readily attest to the irritating effect air pollution has on dry eye,” said Anat Galor, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Our research suggests that simple actions, such as maintaining the appropriate humidity indoors and using a high-quality air filter, should be considered as part of the overall management of patients suffering from dry eye syndrome.”

The research indicates it would be helpful for both primary care doctors and eye care professionals, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists to understand the relationship between dry eye contaminants and other environmental factors. In diagnosing the condition and suggesting the best treatment options, health care providers should inquire about the patients’ environmental history. Knowing the impact of dry eye contaminants on optical health, eye care facilities might consider utilizing air filtration systems to protect their patients from poor indoor air quality.

Hospital and medical facility news is brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Remove Indoor Air Quality Occupational Risk For Plastics Industry Workers

Workers are exposed to a variety of fumes as part of heating and molding  processes in the plastics industry during plastics manufacturing.

As a versatile material, plastics is used to make packaging and containers, to ensure quality smartphone manufacturing and for a variety of other applications. There are over 1.1 million employees in the plastics industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

These workers commonly come into contact with chemical fumes that are emitted during raw material manufacturing and plastics processing. As plastics come in the form of granules, powders or pellets, there are certain ways to mold or shape these materials into products. For the plastics manufacturing process, the material has heat or pressure applied to the plastic or the plastic resins are combined with additives, including fillers and pigments, according to Health and Safety Executive.

Sources of Plastics Fumes

One of the main plastic-making processes employed by manufacturers is thermoplastic injection molding, which heats plastic pellets until they are melted so they can be shaped by a mold to form products. As workers perform these manufacturing procedures, they are at risk for being exposed to fumes from the plastics either from the machines used for manufacturing or the plastics materials themselves.

“The primary sources of emissions at plastic products manufacturing facilities are the pieces of equipment (e.g., extruder hopper, die head, sander) used to handle raw materials and produce the final product,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These are typically the locations where chemical reactions occur, liquid solvents and solvent blends are exposed to the atmosphere, solid resin is heated and melted, and additives are introduced.”

The level of fume exposure during the process varies but it is usually dependent on the type of operating procedure and the material that is being produced. Workers may find themselves exposed to different kinds of fumes during plastics processing, including hydrogen chloride from PVC plastic and formaldehyde from acetals. When heat is applied to it, pure PVC breaks down to form hydrochloric acid gas. Fumes from plastics can irritate the lungs and are even thought to be cancer-causing.

Types of Emissions From Plastic Manufacturing

Employees can also come into contact with plastics fumes while handling thermoforming resins, which could generate volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions. These are byproducts of the chemical reactions of heating resins and are also emitted by additives, a secondary material in the process. In addition to VOCs and HAP emissions, particulate matter can also form while workers handle raw materials through grinding or cutting or other finishing procedures for plastic production.

To help control the presence of fumes, HSE recommends implementing local exhaust ventilation (LEV). This engineering control can include fume extraction equipment such as extractors, which can be effective in case plastic film sticks and overheats or other instances where heating processes can endanger workers. Aging machines can also pose a risk to workers if their processing controls are unpredictable.

OSHA also recommends adequate ventilation and fume extraction systems so workers do not inhale gases that could cause long term health effects.

Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

For Healthy Indoor Air Quality, Food Manufacturers Need Clean Air

For Healthy Indoor Air Quality , Food Manufacturers Need Clean Air 1

Facing the constant risk of bacteria and regulatory pressures from federal agencies, food manufacturers must ensure their products are free from all sources of contamination, including the air. Maintaining safe and hygienic air quality levels not only provides employees with a comfortable work environment but also reduces the possibility of contaminants that are commonly found during food manufacturing.

Air should especially be controlled if it comes into direct contact with food. For example, common foods that are processed using air filtration systems include eggs. To prevent contamination of eggs by micro-organisms such as salmonella, eggs are sent through in-line conveyor belts, scrubbed with automated machinery, dried with filtered air and sanitized with chlorine misters.

Proper safety measures can help prevent the growth of microorganisms and the accumulation of particulates such as dust. Microorganisms that can harm food and, consequently, people are airborne and live within droplets, according to Food Safety Magazine. If the air is unfiltered, this could pose a challenge to facilities that wish to keep their structural features, such as overhead pipelines, clean and sanitized. As a best practice for food manufacturers, facilities should have filtration systems to safely remove airborne contaminants and improve the air quality of the building.

Sources for Contamination

When monitoring the air quality for food production factories, companies should note the physical volume of the facility as well as likely sources of food contamination and vulnerable areas in production lines. Sources of contamination could include raw materials used for production, packaging and movable equipment. Since machinery can generate exhaust, placing extractor arms near this equipment can effectively control potential air contamination. People can also bring particulates into the workplace as employees can track in dust and dirt on their feet or clothing. Dust can also cause micro-organism growth unless these particulates and various other contaminants are captured by air filtration systems.

Controls for Contamination

Temperature is an important factor for how food manufacturers can prevent airborne contamination, according to a report by Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences.

“The simplest, most straight-forward method of controlling processing room air conditions is to make sure that all HVAC units are in good working order and consistently maintaining temperature,” the Auburn University study said. “Additionally, doors to processing rooms should be kept closed at all times to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature.”

Of course, proper air filtration goes hand-in-hand with temperature control. Food Safety News suggested the type of products within the facility that are being processed should determine the amount of filtration for incoming air. For example, products that are susceptible to contamination on a micro-level should utilize the highest standard filters.

It is also important to keep ventilation systems running as the risk of contamination grows as time passes.

“It has also been shown that as the day progresses, the amount of air contamination increases,” Auburn University researchers said. “In fact, as the week progresses, there is an increase in the overall contamination of air with bacteria and mold.”

Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

HEPA vs. ULPA Filtration: What’s the Difference?

HEPA versus ULPA Filtration: What’s the Difference? 1

It’s difficult to imagine a time when clean air was the exception rather than the standard in places such as factories, hospitals, distilleries, and doctors’ offices. But before commercial air filtration was invented, workers were exposed to all manner of indoor air pollution (IAP). As a result, illnesses such as asthma, blood poisoning, even cancer, were not uncommon occupational hazards. The need for worker protection was great.

It wasn’t until 1942 that the first step toward safeguarding indoor air quality (IAQ) was taken. During WWII, a small band of research and development scientists working on a top-secret nuclear program were tasked with finding a way to control the spread of minuscule particles of radioactive matter in order to protect their fellow government workers. Due to their efforts on that classified post, code-named “The Manhattan Project,” the atomic bomb was developed. So, too, was the first HEPA filter.

But that one effort wasn’t the end of development of air filtration products to improve IAQ for workers.

In any industrial setting, there are multiple sources of IAP, most of which are a complex mix of substances which can vary in their potential health risks. Pollutants can originate from both biological and non-biological sources. (1) Biological contaminants include mold, dust mites, and rodent feces and dander. Non-biological include emissions from VOCs, smoke, and chemical vapors. In businesses such as healthcare, where no manufacturing occurs, the threat of infection is the main exposure risk.

Major IAQ Inventions That Led Up To ULPA filtration:

1823 – “Smoke Helmet”: protected firefighters from harmful coal and soot.

1854 – Gas mask: powdered charcoal was used as the filtering agent.

1908 – Electrostatic precipitator: collected and eliminated fumes and mists in factories and vineyards.

1942 – The HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter: based on the gas masks worn by soldiers which were made from a filter paper containing asbestos and cellulose fibers.

1970s – ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) filter: was born after years of trying to create a higher level of indoor air cleaning, one that blocked even the smallest particles from reentering worker’s breathing space.

Today, both HEPA and ULPA filters are designed to catch airborne particulates and operate in a similar fashion. The filters are made up of minuscule strands of crossed and pleated glass fibers. When air is forced through the fine mesh filter, particles become trapped and are unable to reenter the atmosphere. But their similarities end here.

What researchers learned over the years is that a one-size-fits-all air cleaner isn’t suitable for all applications and that the size of the particles needing to be captured should determine the kind of filtration used. Fine particles need one kind of filtration, coarse particles, usually another.

Submicron Particulate

Fine particles or particulate matter (PM) is the sum of all liquid and solid airborne emissions 2.5 microns or less. Coarse particles fall between 2.5 and 10 microns.

A micron is a unit of measurement; 25,000 microns per inch. In industry, PM can be smoke and fumes from chemicals burning, or dust from metals and wood. In healthcare, smoke and dust are not as much a concern as are fine particles from viruses, bacteria, and mold.

In order to meet the minimum standard as set by the Department of Energy, HEPA filtration must trap at least 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns. (2) ULPA filters, on the other hand, are required to be 99.999% efficient and able to remove particles smaller than .12 microns in diameter.

To illustrate the size of particles, envision a strand of human hair. The average is somewhere between 50-70 microns. Dust, pollen, and molds are usually less than 10 microns in diameter. And fine particulates, such as viruses, usually measure under 2.5 PM. (3) This generally includes dust like pollen, mites, and pet dander. But airborne chemicals such as VOCs and mists from bacteria and viruses are too small to be caught by HEPA filters and pass right through. ULPA filtration was invented specifically for this purpose.


HEPA filters can remove fine PM as well as some coarser particulates. ULPA filtration traps the finest of PM – the ones that go right through a HEPA filter. But there are other considerations beyond capture capacity to be made before deciding what product to use for your office, lab, or facility.

Efficiency measures the ability of the filter (over the life of the product) to remove airborne particles. Since the ULPA traps more of the smallest particles than does the HEPA, it is considered more efficient.

And, resistance refers to the airflow capacity of matter as it moves through the filter. Since the ULPA filter media is denser, airflow is lower than a comparably sized HEPA filter, resulting in lower air circulation plus higher power use required by the unit blower to move air through the filter. This affects the life and longevity of the filter, making the ULPA less economical.

Industries and Applications

HEPA filters were designed for most industrial, military, and government applications, particularly in types of manufacturing where airborne particulate matter is constant. HEPA popularity has grown and is now common for home use ranging from bedroom air purifiers to vacuum cleaners.

ULPA filtration is used in situations where a more efficient means of capturing the smallest PM and preventing the spread of airborne bacterial and viral pathogens is important. ULPA filters are best suited for more critical applications in fields such as medical and healthcare, pharma research and manufacturing, biomedical labs, airline cabin purifiers, clean rooms, electronics, nuclear and aerospace industry applications.

When deciding between HEPA and ULPA filtration, one should start with safety. If both types of filtration methods can meet your particulate capture needs for a safe and healthy workplace, then take into consideration a unit’s efficiency and resistance.

To reduce the risk to manufacturing and healthcare workers, experts recommend a multi-layered approach to achieving a safe and healthy IAQ. This includes indoor air filtration. (4)

At Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc., we protect our manufacturing and healthcare customers by providing them with high-quality products and IAQ expertise. Contact us today to speak to a clean air specialist.

Indoor Air Quality Risks for Oil Refinery Welders

Refineries should ensure their staff have proper ventilation to protect against toxic fumes

Petroleum companies should ensure their staff have proper ventilation to protect against toxic fumes.

When companies do not protect the respiratory health of their workers, they could face severe penalties.

An oil refinery was recently fined by the Wyoming Occupational Safety Health Administration for multiple workplace safety violations, including for failure to protect workers from hazardous fumes, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The 22 safety violations could cause the company to be fined over $700,000 – the biggest fine ever issued in Wyoming. During an inspection, it was discovered the company did not implement proper safety controls to protect workers and employees were found to not have emergency response training.

“It is pretty unusual,” said John Ysebaert, an administrator with Wyoming OSHA. “We have several other refineries in the state and have not had this pattern of issues.”

Some penalties were due to reports of 20 refinery workers becoming ill after exposure to toxic fumes. These chemical hazards included hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide.

“Certainly when you have 20 people overcome by fumes, they did not have an effective process or procedure,” Ysebaert said.

In addition to these chemical fumes, petroleum refineries can generate different air contaminants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Combat welding fume exposure for workers in refineries

Oil and gas industry workers who are commonly exposed to toxic gases include metalworking staff. Employees performing hot work, as described by OSHA, through welding, cutting or brazing are at risk for a variety of injuries and illnesses – from skin injuries from sparks or fires to exposure to welding fumes.

As another major hazard, welding fumes can be considered toxic. To limit the health and safety risks associated with toxic gases, or what OSHA considers a “special hazard,” the agency recommends that employers make sure there is enough ventilation from welding and cutting fumes. Confined spaces especially need to have proper ventilation as toxic gases can accumulate.

For controlling toxic gas exposure, OSHA suggests employers implement mechanical ventilation systems for welding fume extraction if employees are working in confined areas, such as fume extraction equipment.

Workers at fined oil refineries were exposed to hydrogen sulfide, which is considered a flammable gas. Welding employees who work around hydrogen sulfide could become burned if a flash fire or explosion occurred. Additional personnel should be stationed in order to guard against this risk or prevent injury to welding workers should materials combust.

Industry regulation and worker respiratory safety news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Nanomaterial Exposure Poses Potential Risks To Workers

NIOSH recommends laboratories and research labs employ fume hoods to reduce nanomaterial exposure for workers.

NIOSH recommends laboratories and research labs employ fume hoods to reduce nanomaterial exposure for workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently issued new guidelines for limiting employee exposure to industry nanomaterials, according to Occupational Health and Safety Magazine.

The report by NIOSH, the leading federal agency for safety and health recommendations regarding nanotechnology, includes a hierarchy of engineering controls for use during the development of nanotechnology in manufacturing and other industries.

NIOSH defines nanotechnology as modifying atomic matter to create innovative structures, materials and products. While knowledge of occupational health risks surrounding nanotechnology is limited, NIOSH said studies have shown low solubility nanoparticles may be more hazardous than larger particles considering mass basis.

“As we continue to work with diverse partners to study the health effects produced by exposure to nanomaterials, particularly as new materials and products continue to be introduced, it is prudent to protect workers now from potential adverse health outcomes,” NIOSH Director John Howard said.

Howard said the organization’s suggestions are crucial for making nanotechnology safe and to keep the U.S. as a leader in the global market. In lowering health risk exposure regarding nanomaterials, NIOSH suggests workers exercise certain precautions, such as using engineering controls.

“Potential exposure control approaches for commonly used processes include commercial technologies, such as a laboratory fume hood, or techniques adopted from the pharmaceutical industry, such as continuous liner product bagging systems,” the report said.

Nanotechnology labs most likely to use fume hoods

The most common control used by nanotechnology firms and research labs is a fume hood, according to a survey conducted in 2006. Listed as a key piece of equipment for handling nanomaterials, fume hoods are effective control technologies especially for labs. In the survey, two-thirds of firms said they used a fume hood to reduce nanomaterial and chemical exposure for workers.

In the guide, NIOSH recommends a chemical fume hood for the process or task of small-scale weighing for the nanotechnology industry. Small-sale weighing involves workers weighing out nanomaterials through scooping, pouring or dumping of materials.

NIOSH said fume hood operators should put hoods away from certain areas that are vulnerable to cross drafts such as doors, window and aisles. Workers should also have exhaust air discharge stacks pointed away from these same areas.

In addition to nanoparticle exposure during nanopowder material handling, laboratory fume hoods can also guard against sources of natural nanoparticles, such as tree pollen, and could be used for welding fume extraction.

Laboratory news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk 1

The September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 claimed nearly 3,000 lives and wounded more than 6,000 others. The devastation didn’t end there if you add the number of people who will die from asbestos-related disease resulting from the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts in New York City in the weeks that followed.

Because asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center North Tower, tons upon tons of asbestos particles were released into the air during the attack. All workers and volunteers deployed to the site and surrounding area breathed in the toxic dust, which was contaminated enough to cause great harm, even death, years after exposure. (1)

But someone needn’t be a hero to risk coming into contact with asbestos. Despite the EPA having identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant in 1971, there are still more than 75 occupational groups with workers who are exposed to it. (2) What’s worse, many of those work indoors, where the threat of poor air quality is highest.

To know who is affected and how, one must understand what asbestos is and where it resides.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals found in rock and soil. The composite is made up of tiny fibers that are biologically strong and heat resistant. Because of its resiliency, asbestos was widely used across numerous industries and can still be found in a multitude of items that were made before 1972. (3)

Current asbestos-containing products include auto clutches and brake pads, vinyl tile, and roofing materials, in addition to cement piping and other building construction materials. There are many more items that can be added to this list. (4)

Fifty years ago, the dangers of the mineral became common knowledge and today, products may contain asbestos so long as the amount does not exceed one percent. But older products – and building structures – may still contain large amounts of asbestos. Therein lies the problem.

Unhealthy exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials become airborne, either from deterioration or damage. Employees such as construction, renovation or custodial workers are at the greatest risk because they often are the ones who intentionally, though often unknowingly, disturb asbestos fibers in the course of their day-to-day activities.

The results can be lethal.

The three main diseases associated with asbestos exposure are:

  1. Lung cancer
  2. Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer that resides in the lining of the chest, lung, heart, and abdomen
  3. Asbestosis – A serious, long-term disease of the lungs

All three asbestos-related diseases are deadly and can take between 10-40 years for symptoms to emerge.

While large amounts of asbestos are held to a minimum by current government regulations, many hundreds of thousands of workers are still at risk of exposure. These occupations include auto and aircraft mechanics, construction workers, drywall tapers, electricians, engineers, home inspectors, industrial plant workers, plumbers, and pipefitters. There are many more. For workers in these industries, the EPA strongly recommends these basic strategies to combat against asbestos-tainted indoor air (5):

  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation
  3. Air Cleaning Systems

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers who work in industries affected by asbestos exposure by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove air impurities to give peace of mind.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.