“How Clean is Clean?”

Have you ever wondered what level of surface contamination from a given contaminant was “acceptable” for a situation? For example, what level of chromium contamination in a plating shop would represent a health hazard to workers? Or maybe, for a facility that used cadmium, what surface levels would be acceptable when the facility was being closed or vacated? In both cases, we would like the level to be “zero”, but that is not always practical, or even achievable.

DC_presentation_JimEH&S professionals are frequently asked to measure indoor surface contamination in order to evaluate the potential for worker exposure, to verify the effectiveness of control measures or to determine whether a structure is “clean” after use of hazardous materials has been discontinued.  Unfortunately there is little regulatory guidance to determine how clean is clean.  OSHA regulations (where applicable) require areas to be “as free as practicable” of removable contamination, without providing a definition of that term.  Environmental regulations have been established for soil and other media, but those standards do not apply to indoor areas.  Other commonly used approaches, including HUD levels for lead and DOE beryllium standards are limited in scope and difficult to apply to other contaminants.

Jim Kapin, manager of EH&S consulting services for ACT, taught a ½-day workshop on this subject for attendees at the American Industrial Hygiene Associate (AIHA) Fall Conference, held in Washington D.C. from 10/18/14 – 10/22/14. More than 50 conference attendees from around the country as well as several international attendees learned about the strengths and weaknesses of several commonly used approaches for evaluating indoor contamination as well as when to choose one approach over another. Wipe test methods, sampling strategy and even laboratory methods were also discussed and the session finished with hypothetical “case studies” where participants were given a set of facts and were asked to develop their own strategy.

Do you have any questions regarding surface contamination or decontamination?
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, or if you would like assistance with facility decontamination or similar projects, please contact Jim Kapin, Manager of EH&S Consulting for ACT, at 619-990-5955 or jkpain@advancedchemical.net

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