Proactive Prevention of Exposure to Respirable Chromium

Period of Performance: 03/01/2003 - 08/31/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

ELS Technology, Inc.
6600 East Lookout Drive
Parker, CO 80138
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Widespread occupational exposure risk to toxic airborne metal aerosols and dusts exists due to the lack of rapid and cost-effective monitoring methods. Chromium (VI) is a particularly toxic metal that is commonly found in environmental samples. However, current personal sampling methods are expensive and time-consuming; exposure data are not available until one to several days after exposures occur. This program proposes development of an automated sampling and extraction platform integrated with an adsorptive-catalytic voltammetric analysis technique, to provide rapid, on-site automated quantification of airborne chromium metals for less than 10% of the cost of a typical laboratory analysis. The Phase I project will quantitatively determine feasibility of the proposed method by fabrication and testing of a small, portable, inexpensive instrument that is suitable as the basis for automated ambient air analysis, personal filter cartridge analysis, and surface dust analysis. The instrument will automatically extract and analyze the heavy metal concentration of the filters, and calculate the exposure based on the sample air volume (or surface area) for comparison with Permissible Exposure Limits. The Phase II program would then consist of development of an analytical protocol to differentiate Cr(lll) and Cr(VI), extensive field validation of the analyzer, and a study to estimate the effectiveness of the analytical tool to assist in exposure prevention protocols. Based on bench-scale testing completed to date, the limit of quantitation is projected to be less than 0.1 ug/m3. The analysis time is projected to be 5-10 minutes per sample compared to 24 hours or more using current methods. Sample costs are projected to be $0.75/filter as compared to $15-$25 with current methods. Industry has been clear in communicating its need for improved methods for personal air monitoring of heavy metals. An independent market study has already been conducted and has identified over 10,000 commercial/industrial sites in the mining, metallurgical, military, electronics, and coatings industries.