AIHA J (Fairfax, Va) 2003 May-Jun;64(3):338-45
Technical Services Unit, Occupational Safety and Health and Fire Prevention Division, Labour Branch, Human Resources Development Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0J2.
To assess the impact of the proposed American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists threshold limit value-time-weighted average to diesel particulate matter (DPM), 177 full-shift samples were taken in 23 workplaces under Canadian federal jurisdiction. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Method 5040 (Elemental Carbon: Diesel Exhaust) was used to assess exposure. Quality control tests were conducted prior to field sampling by taking air samples in the exhaust stream of two diesel engines mounted on a test bed and having them analyzed by two laboratories using the same thermal program. Field sampling results indicated that 77% of the elemental carbon (EC) levels were below the currently proposed limit of 20 microg/m(3), and 54% below 10 microg/m(3). The geometric mean concentration of EC was 24.4 microg/m(3) in high-activity and 4.0 microg/m(3) in low-activity work sites. Corresponding arithmetic mean concentrations were 41.4 and 8.4 microg/m(3), respectively. The ratio of EC to total carbon (TC) was close to 90% for all quality control samples. It was no higher than 50% for the field samples, and it varied significantly with EC concentration. Finally, results are presented from the analysis of 41 samples by a third laboratory using a thermal-optical method slightly different from NIOSH 5040. Even if one were to opt for EC as a surrogate for DPM, unless analysis details (particularly the thermal program) are specified, significant differences in the results can be expected. This could lead to problems for regulatory agencies and for epidemiologic research.