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Indoor Air Quality- Metal Contaminants in Industrial Building

One crucial factor that can be harmful to indoor air quality is the presence of metal contaminants.These contaminants are found in settled dust or surface coatings such as painted metal. Dust-laden metal particles are known for causing adverse health effects such as asthma, skin and eye irritation, and potential cancers. Metal wipe samples are used to identify the existence of such metals.

Situation

A client from Portland, Oregon called on G2 to test for contaminants in an industrial space due to the activity of the previous occupants. The tenants vacated the site in 2017 after seven years of use for storage and metal fabrications. It was crucial for our client, the landlord, to determine any hazardous contamination levels that could contribute to poor indoor air quality, and to create a plan of action as needed.

Metal Wipe Sampling Tests

We performed metal wipe sampling in three various locations within the site: a roof support member, a wall, and a floor. We collected two samples at each location.

  • Sample One took a profile of metals commonly associated with welding fumes. This test specifically searched for the presence of antimony, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron oxide, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium, and zinc oxide.
  • Sample Two detected hexavalent chromium only.

 

What Were the Sample Findings?

After analyzing the samples, G2 found that metals were present at various levels in all of the locations sampled. Of the metals we sampled for, all of the above were present in some capacity and presented a potential health risk.

The highest concentrations of metals appeared in the roof rafters. Alternatively, the lowest levels of metal concentrations surfaced on the floor level.

Our Recommendations

There was no quantifiable way to determine potential occupational exposures. There are no specific Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OR-OSHA) thresholds established for metals in settled dust. The clearance thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only apply to housing and child-occupied facilities. Due to the unknown future use of the space and any impending construction, our team had to rely on their industry knowledge and expertise to recommend a well-rounded plan of action. G2’s recommendations were as follows:

  • We suggested that the client develop an Operations & Maintenance Plan to manage existing and future metal-laden dust. This step is particularly critical if the building is intended to be used once again for metal fabrication and industrial purposes. The O&M plan should encompass routine mitigation practices, pertinent engineering, administrative and personal protective control measures, clean-up and disposal procedures, and effective communication and documentation practices.
  • The client should consider implementing a plan to clean and remove existing metal-laden dust from the interior of the building. The entirety of the building should be cleaned, including the rafters and floor level. Afterward, additional metal wipe samples need to be taken to ensure the success of the cleanup activities.
  • Instilling good hygiene practices in building occupants will help facilitate dust control and eliminate the health risks. Guidelines for modified work practices should be put in place, recommending that occupants rid themselves of metals by using hygiene practices such as hand washing and the use of personal protective measures.

 

Industrial buildings are particularly vulnerable to metal-laden dust particles and hazardous surface coatings. Detecting the presence of these metals is the first step to resolving the problem. G2 Consultants can analyze and identify these risks. From there, we will partner with our clients to create effective solutions that last.

Does your business need indoor air quality testing? Contact us. We’d be happy to help.

About the author: Noal Kraft
Noal is a Principal of G2 Consultants Inc. With over 27 years of professional experience in the Industrial Hygiene and Health and Safety industry. He has worked on thousands of projects throughout the U.S.