Air Sampling Procedures Test kits may help identify toxic pollutants that degrade air quality

 
There have been at least three types of fires following the tragic events of September 11th in Washington DC and New York that may have contributed to toxic pollutants in the air surrounding the disaster sites. A general air quality profile that may be able to determine whether there are toxic pollutants from the fires that may be present surrounding the disaster area is described in this article. The first type was a fuel fire with jet fuel as the main contributor. The second type of fire was a waste fire that included the burning of plastic, paper, foam rubber, metallic parts, building material, insulation, flooring materials, lumber and various chemicals. Lastly, there was an electrical fire that included computers, wiring, circuits, and light fixtures.


Airborne Particulates are discrete particles that can be described as dust, fumes, smoke, or mist. Health effects from exposure to airborne particulates will depend on the chemical and physical characteristics of the contaminant that is present. However, depending on the material, health effects can range from allergic or hypersensitivity reactions, irritation of the nose and or throat, bacterial or fungal infections, systemic toxic effects (as in the case of heavy metal exposure) to carcinogenic effects (i.e. asbestos, PAHs, pesticides, and other chemical exposures).
Carbon Monoxide is a combustion pollutant that is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. At elevated concentrations it can cause headaches, fatigue, queasiness, vision problems, and heart pains. Carbon Monoxide may be found at elevated levels due to the condition of the outdoor air surrounding the World Trade Center.
A Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) test will detect fuel components (C4 to C8 carbon range) like benzene, toluene, xylenes, and trimethylbenzenes as well as universal chemicals like tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, acetone,! freon, chloroform, bromoform, and vinyl chloride. Health effects from exposure to VOCs can range from irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat to headaches to liver, heart and nerve damage. In addition, various VOCs are suspected carcinogens.
A Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC) test will detect polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are incomplete combustion by-products that may have been generated in the fuel and chemical fires. PAHs are highly carcinogenic and can cause nose, throat, and eye irritation. In addition, this test will also include results for any phthalates and phenols that may be detected.
Phthalates are chemicals that are present in most plastic products and can pose health risks in high concentrations. Phenols are the chemicals used in resins, adhesives, and construction materials. They are also found naturally in decaying dead organic matter.
Dioxins are emitted during combustion of industrial waste, wood and gasoline burning and can be present in other chemicals. Dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) can be very toxic even in low concentrations. 2,3,7,8-TCDD exposure can be the cause of weight loss, skin disorders, immune system damage, impaired liver function, altered blood function, impaired reproduction/birth defects, increased incidence of tumors and enzyme production. There are approximately 75 different dioxin compounds but 2,3,7,8-TCDD appears to be one of the more toxic compounds.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are chemicals that were used in many different types of products including hydraulic fluid, casting wax, pigments, carbonless copy paper, plasticizer, vacuum pumps, compressors, and heat transfer systems. They can also be found in the ballasts of fluorescence lights. Their primary use, however, was as a dielectric fluid in electrical equipment because of their exceptional insulating properties. Historically, because of their fire resistance, they were also required by some fire codes. PCBs are resistant to degradation ! and therefore persists in the environment for many years. Because of the health and environmental risks associated with PCBs, a ban of manufacturing of PCBs was made in 1976, use and disposal was then regulated in 1978. Equipment manufactured with PCBs was allowed to remain as long as the equipment functioned properly. Among the health affects of PCBs are skin ailments called chloracne, reproductive disorders, liver disease and cancer. PCBs are a suspected human carcinogen and a known animal carcinogen.
Fuel Fingerprint testing can be performed on dust, wipes or air. Jet fuel is an obvious contaminant at the site as well as fuel from surrounding vehicles. Jet and diesel constituents are not considered to be Volatile Organic Compounds due the their large alkane structures and therefore will not be detected by the VOC instrument and analysis.
There may be a multitude of metallic compounds involved in the fires that include arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, tin, aluminum, and possibly gold to name a few. Health effects to metals exposure will depend on the individual metals and concentrations.
Mercury is analyzed in a different manner (cold vapor atomic absorption testing) than the other metals and therefore requires a separate test. Mercury can be found in fluorescent lighting, high intensity lamps, batteries, non-electric thermostats, thermometers, electrical switches in lights and appliances, and cross-contaminated cleaning solutions with caustic soda or chlorine. Coal, oil or natural gas burning fuels can also contribute to mercury levels in the air. Mercury contamination can remain airborne or settle out after rains or weather with high humidity. Elemental mercury is most toxic in the vapor form but can vaporize at room temperature or exposure to high heat. The vapors can absorb onto surrounding materials and is very difficult to remove from porous substances like carpet, clothing, or furniture. Health effects from mercury exposure can range from trem! ors, changes in vision and hearing, insomnia, weakness, memory difficulty, headache, irritability, to dermatitis.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in many building materials due to its exceptional fire retardant and insulating qualities. Asbestos exposure occurs through inhalation of the fibers with health effects ranging from lung scarring (Asbestosis), lung cancer, and to cancer of the pleura lining (Mesothelioma). To be of significant health concern exposure levels must be at high concentrations for long periods of time.
Microbial Fact #1
Psychrophilic microorganisms are microorganisms that tolerate rather than prefer very low temperatures, their optimum temperatures for growth are below 20 C, but they multiply at a substantial rate even at 0 C.
Fungal Fact #1
Myxomycetes are an ubiquitous, type I allergen, often found on decaying plant material, although it occasionally is found indoors. Dispersed by wind in the dry phase, while the wet amoebic phase is motile. Myxomycetes exhibit characteristics of protozoans and fungi. Indistinguishable from smuts under 600x microscopy.