Detection of Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace by GC/PID

Accepted for presentation at Pittcon 2017 in the
Symposium: Environmental Analysis for Air Quality and Atmospheric Conditions 

Wednesday March 8, 2017
McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
Authors: J.L. Maclachlan and J.N. Driscoll

Title: Detection of Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace by GC/PID

The current National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) definition for an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) condition, is one that poses a threat of exposure to airborne contaminants when that exposure is likely to cause death or immediate or delayed permanent adverse health effects or prevent escape from such an environment [NIOSH 2004]. There are nearly 400 hundred compounds listed by NIOSH as IDLH. Some of the most toxic chemicals are Br2, Cl2, acrolein, AsH3, chloro picrin, methyl isocyanate… In 1990, EPA published a list of 189 air toxics which are hazardous air pollutants known to cause or suspected of causing cancer. There are more than 250 chemicals regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that have permissible exposure limits (PEL’s) between 1 ppb and 2 ppm.  

There is a definite need for real time portable analyzers that can detect toxic chemicals with ppb or even ppt detection limits. A compact portable GC with a photoionization detector (PID) has low ppb detection limits for many of these compounds and with an efficient low power thermal desorber can detect ppt levels for many of these toxics. A battery operated GC could also be used to protect first responders in areas where there have been spills of hazardous chemicals. Presently, a gas chromatograph/ mass spectrometer (GC/MS) located in a trailer is used at a number of spill sites although it is not an ideal solution.

We will develop and describe the columns and conditions for a GC/PID for 12 toxic compounds on the OSHA toxic chemicals list or the NIOSH IDLH list.


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